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Turning a one-time sale into a lifelong customer relationship

When you buy an engagement or wedding ring at Robbins Brothers, you get more than a piece of jewelry: You get a partner for life. The sales associates might not be walking down the aisle with you or DJing your wedding, but according to Charlotte Schmidt, general manager of the San Diego location, they’re in it for the long haul.

“We want to be a part of [the customer’s] love journey,” Charlotte said. “We call it a love journey because they found their significant other. That’s the hardest part, right? We’re trying to make the other part easy and less stressful because we are the experts in the industry and we just walk them through.” 

Relationships are central to any business, regardless of industry. Expensive products and services—like an engagement ring, cross-country move, or new car—may seem like a one-and-done transaction. But even the smallest customer interaction can become an ongoing relationship with the right combination of customer service, attention, and care. 

Below, Charlotte shares four strategies that encourage Robbins Brothers customers to say “yes” to a lifelong relationship. 

1. Use a welcoming, approachable tone

Robbins Brothers has one of the largest selections of engagement rings in San Diego—35 cases with more than 6,000 rings. Choosing one to cherish forever can feel almost as high-stakes as a marriage, so the staff at Robbins Brothers works hard to maintain a casual, approachable atmosphere.

“The tone of the store is very casual,” Charlotte said. “Like, ‘Oh my gosh! Welcome in. We’re so thankful that you’re here. Tell us about what brought you in. Let’s just start navigating the cases.’ We do what they want to do.”

For Charlotte, the goal is to put the customer at ease and move beyond making a quick sale to forge a long term relationship: “Do we want to be their jeweler of choice? Absolutely. But it’s about the experience that they’re going to have, and it’s not about always closing the deal that day.”

“It really is about the customer interaction,” she said. “It’s about them enjoying this amazing time either by themselves or together because it’s a lifetime commitment. And it’s a lifetime commitment to us as well. We want them to love us as much as they love their ring, as much as they love the experience.”

What if, after all of that, you don’t make the sale? Charlotte’s team calls customers a week later to ask if they liked their experience with a different jeweler—and uses the opportunity to ask what Robbins Brothers could have done to get their business. 

2. Educate customers on their options

Ever gone to the doctor, mechanic, or another business outside your industry, only to be confused by jargon you don’t understand? Terms like cut, color, and clarity can be intimidating, even for customers who’ve done their research. In specialized industries, education is key to guiding the customer toward a purchase and building a trusting relationship. 

Charlotte’s teaching methods include explaining industry jargon with visual examples. “What we do is we bring in three diamonds, put them in front of the guest, and let them just look. It’s visual proof,” she said. “Because a lot of times they’ve educated themselves online or they’ve gone to another place, and that place has wanted to upsell them to the most expensive [option].”

For Yelp reviewer Kevin H., who came in with his wife to pick out an engagement ring, this support made all the difference. A sales associate, Gare, encouraged Kevin to deliver on his wife’s number one priority—the size of the diamond—by sacrificing other characteristics. To demonstrate, Gare took them outside and let them see for themselves: The larger, lower quality diamond shone just as brightly as a more expensive one. 

“We’re trying to educate you,” Charlotte said. “If you can’t see a difference between a $15,000 diamond, and let’s say a $10,000 diamond, then why would we sell you the 15? Let’s sell you the 10, make you happy, and you have confidence in us.” 

3. Maintain contact with regular touchpoints

Ongoing touchpoints are another way to turn a good initial purchasing experience into a lifelong relationship. Checking in with a customer after a sale shows that you care about them, not just their business—especially if you can add value. 

At Robbins Brothers, sales associates call customers every year to remind them to bring in their ring for cleaning. These follow-ups not only keep customers’ rings sparkling like new and protected under warranty, but also serve as personalized reminders for another important date in their lives: their anniversary.

“We call it CRMing, but it really is being their jeweler of choice and being their friend in the industry to help them out—to not forget dates and also to not forget their warranty,” Charlotte said. “It’s amazing when customers come in and they’re like, ‘Hey Gare, hey Nicole, hey Navity,’ like that they remember. That’s rewarding. That’s why we do what we do. That little service goes such a long way for both sides.”

As a result, many sales associates develop personal relationships with their customers, sharing wedding photos and life updates. These intangible moments of interaction strengthen your customer relationships in the long term.

4. Foster employee relationships 

Lifelong customer relationships aren’t possible without the employees who nurture them. As a business owner, you are also committed to building relationships with your team.

Robbins Brothers in San Diego has pioneered a few ways of celebrating employee growth, including using Yelp reviews for inspiration. This contributes to a positive work environment, where sales representatives like Gare are willing to go above and beyond—hand-delivering an engagement ring to Kevin and his wife at their home in Oceanside, California, an hour away.

“Reviews are the scorecard for the store,” Charlotte said. “We celebrate the five stars, the four stars. As a team, we send out a text message, and we’ll screenshot it and be like, ‘Amazing job. That’s so awesome!’ And so it starts the conversation of what did you do well, so they can each grow in their own way.”

And it all comes back to the customer: According to Kevin, Gare’s customer service was the main reason he felt compelled to leave a Yelp review—in turn, spurring future customers to build their own relationship with the business. 

“I think that when I see somebody that’s good at their job, they need to be recognized,” Kevin said. “And sometimes I can’t just be like, ‘Hey, where’s your manager? Let me tell them.’ And so if they did a good job, it’s easier for me to go on Yelp, and I can just share the whole experience.”

Interviews by Emily Washcovick; photos of Robbins Brothers on Yelp

These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear more from Charlotte and Kevin, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

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