Business leaders like to talk about the strength of their client relationships. Sales people echo that, and insist that their best customers are there because of their relationship. What’s really in that relationship? What does that mean? For some, it’s all about being friendly with their customers. And while that is not a bad thing, getting deeper and truly understanding how you can add value to the customer — to the point that they will pay for it, can lead to customer intimacy.
Going down this path requires more than printing expertise. To truly understand what your customers are trying to accomplish with the work they pay you to do, you’ll need a good dose of business acumen. What’s their end game? Who is the ultimate customer they are trying to please, inform, or motivate to take action?
The more you know how your customer measures success, the more that you will be able to help them to reach that goal. We see this every day, if you are not part of these conversations, you’re often relinquished to the role of a vendor, providing commodity services.
Report Cards And Surveys
Providing a report card, or scorecard on your performance to your customer can help take your dialogue with them to the next level. You can also add data on your customer’s performance to the scorecard. Some companies do this review as an annual event, while others will share this information on a quarterly basis. These are helpful to organizations that are open to suggestions, improvement and change. Going through these performance metrics with your key accounts is one more way of achieving customer intimacy. An implementation note — you’ll need to approach the right level person at your customer to provide this information. All buyers may not be receptive to this, so make sure to include the right people in the meeting. Providing these metrics will help to further enhance the relationship between the customer and your business.
Client surveys are also very useful, particularly those that lead to a net promoter score. Some organizations take this to an even higher level. They are looking to learn how they compare to their competitors who are also providing services to the customer.
No matter where you are on the spectrum, make sure to learn from the survey results. Understand what your customers are telling you, it’s great feedback to your team and will confirm what services you provide that really matter. This information could be more helpful if you segment your clients. For example, what’s the difference in your responses between customers that you’ve had for less than one year, and customers that you’ve had over five years? There could be something to learn there. The ultimate goal is to turn your customers into fans, and one way to do that is by using the survey feedback to provide a great customer experience.
Help Your Customers To Be Better
The more that you know about what your customer is trying to accomplish, and how their business is doing, the more that you can add insight and information that may be helpful to them. Now, this may not be helpful to someone who is simply asking you to fill out a spreadsheet with prices, but you have to ask yourself if that’s your ideal customer relationship to begin with. Sales reps and businesses that are trying to enhance their relationship with their customers are making the time to learn about their business. They are trying to take the conversations beyond, “how many do you want and where do you want them.”
Targeted to the right level, this information is not only helpful to the customer, but shows that you are indeed trying to help. You are not just looking for the next order. And while the insight you can provide to your large, sophisticated customers may be limited, your midsize customers would certainly appreciate it and view you as a trusted advisor. In the end, your customers love talking about their business – give them a chance to do so.
Don’t take anything for granted and don’t become complacent with your customers. This is a unique opportunity to capitalize on your experience and help your team earn the business that it deserves. If you’re not working to enhance your client relationships every day, now would be a good time to start.
I welcome any thoughts or questions; please add them below or reach out to me directly.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic counsel, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Printing Impressions