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3 min read

Building Long-Term Relationships

When times in the economy get tough, having established long-term relationships with customers is one way that helps you manage through the difficult times. One and done projects don’t help build your business whereas investing effort to build relationships pays off in the long run. Here are a few of the key actions that you can take to grow, strengthen, and nourish relationships.


A solid relationship is the key to long-term business.

(Over) Deliver on your projects

When executing the project, make sure you not only meet the requirements, but go above and beyond. If the customer expresses interest in an enhancement to the system, be open to the idea even though you do not recover any additional revenue. Be sure to document the changes, check with the customer’s project manager, and get credit for the additional work.

Be upfront and honest

Before, during, and after a project, be sure to keep the customer informed of any developments, concerns you have about the project, and issues that come up. This allows all parties to start addressing the issues, ensures that you are meeting the customer’s expectations, and prepares both parties for successful collaboration. Open and honest communication also puts you in a position to hear from the customer about other opportunities, the state of their business, and lets you share what other interesting solutions you are implementing.

Admit your failings and correct them

By admitting that you failed and not blaming someone else, you build trust with the customer. Additionally, take the time to figure out why it happened and what you are going to do to fix the problem. Then, put controls or processes in place to make sure the problem does not happen again. This shows them that you are in it for the long haul and that they can rely on you.

Listen to and look out for the customer’s needs

Many times, a customer will bring a problem or a proposed solution to you where they have already decided about the best way to solve the problem or implement the solution. As a systems integrator, you have seen many more solutions to similar problems and you are familiar with other tools or approaches that might be a better fit for their needs. Listen to what their underlying needs are and don’t ignore what they are saying. Take time and explain to the customer the ramifications with their ideas and plan the right path forward together.

Communicate with the customer’s future in mind

As a trusted advisor, you are going to need to be on the lookout for the customer and help them see what their control system will be or could be in the future. Be honest about the technical lifecycle of the system you are providing. Evaluate their control systems and identify control system components that might be at the end of life or could soon be unsupportable. Then work with the customer to devise a migration plan.

Be responsive

Whether the customer needs help immediately or for something down the road, addressing their request in a timely manner helps them have confidence in you. Being responsive can be difficult when there are many items that need your immediate attention.


Long-term relationships with customers are critical for growing a successful systems integration business. The long-term relationship takes a consistent and concerted effort and is not built on one action but instead is the product of many choices over time.

If you are looking for a control system integrator who values the long-term relationship over the short-term win, please reach out to Applied Control Engineering, Inc. to see how we can start building a long-term relationship with you and your company.