Ok now that I am feeling better from my flu I would like to elaborate on my theory of relationships a bit more. I admit it’s a little rough around the edges but I am pretty confident in its foundation and that it can be applied to real life examples. Relationships exist in many different channels of our life but I feel that the fundamentals are similar in all.
Consider the examples of a customer, a colleague, a spouse, an employee and an employer. Each relationship is different but certain principles remain important. As well, it is critical to enter each of the above relationships with the right attitude. In others words don’t try and enter a relationship with the “What’s in it for me” philosophy, the potential for success for both parties will be much greater if you use the reverse. Tonight for a little fun I will elaborate on the customer example.
To begin to understand the level of respect your existing and potential customers may have for you, consider your answers to the following questions under each category
Do you ask the right questions to allow you to understand their problems? Do you understand how their processes work? Do you know where their real pains exist?
Do you demonstrate a superior knowledge of your products and services that allow you to effectively map problems with solutions?
Can you be creative when determining ways to service your client?
Can you identify strengths and weaknesses in your customer’s system and adjust your process to optimize service potential?
Don’t forget the basics. The reason a customer calls on you is because they need help - something isn’t right. They recognize their pains but they may not recognize the problem. As a vendor you need to use strategies and creativity to address their problems in a manner that is both helpful to them and appropriate to their position. So don’t write every patient the same prescription.
Are you upfront and honest with your customers? Do you clearly identify items such as deliverables, pricing, and schedules in a manner that they will understand and agree with?
Can your customers receive support when they need it? If they contact your company, how long does it take for someone to address their problem? Are the available channels appropriate to their needs?
Are you genuine with your customer or are you just looking for a quickie? How will your customer be treated AFTER the sale has been made? Will they be hesitant to make future purchases? Will they recommend your product/services to others?
Do you give your customer an opportunity to express how they feel about their service?
Do you keep your promises?
Do you make negative references about your competitors or do you let your performance do the talking?
Never underestimate the insightfulness of your customers. If you start to cut corners and bend the rules, they will notice. Your customers make your business a business - don’t forget that. Be sure to communicate clearly with them and in a manner that is appropriate to their needs. In other words don’t set up a support centre that is available during your working hours but not theirs. Don’t use technology that your customers don’t understand to track issues. Make sure they can express their problems, and make sure you can address them. If you don’t intend on addressing certain things (maybe it’s not appropriate), let them know that before they sign up.
Do you take time to listen to your customer explain their pain or do you presume to already know everything you need to know?
Do you allow yourself to learn from each new experience?
Do you review your performance regularly to identify potential areas for improvement?
Survival of the fittest? Definitely – but only when you accept that the fittest is the party that continually adapts to a changing environment and never stops evolving. You can’t stop learning and never presume to know everything. Every situation holds something new to learn. If it doesn’t then you weren’t paying attention. Make sure you always look back and ask yourself, could I have done anything better – then make sure you ask your customer the same. You may sometimes be surprised by the answer.
Work Ethic (W)
Will you do what it takes to deliver on time and on budget?
Will your customers refer to you as a leader or a follower?
Do you cut corners and reduce quality in an effort to increase profits?
Do you make sure all meetings with your client go ahead as planned? Do you attend them or make last minute substitutions?
I don’t believe that work ethic is something someone can learn but I do believe that it is something anyone should be able to understand and recognize. Before taking on a task for a customer you should evaluate whether or not you have the resources to deliver what you are promising. If you don’t, then get them. Never stand a customer up. Whether it’s by not replying to an email, not returning a call or canceling a meeting to attend a golf game – you should never stand a customer up. Whether you have 2 customers or 200,000, treat them with the respect they deserve because you NEED them.
Do your services provide a benefit to your customers? Do they express this to you?
Are your customers happy to hear you call? Are you happy to hear from them?
Do your customers return for repeat purchases? Do you offer any rewards for them doing so?
As mentioned already, a customer comes to you because they need help. Therefore you need to make sure that you are actually meeting that need. Your customers should be benefiting from your services , if they are not then you need to address this. Your customers are important to you and you should let them no this. Never take them for granted and like your mother always told you – don’t forget to say please and thank-you.
There is a mutually dependant relation between trust and respect, therefore a relationship cannot grow or succeed without one or the other. Now that you have an idea how much your typical customer respects you, its time to determine if they trust you?
Honesty (H) & Ethics (E):
Are you upfront with your customers? Does everyone get a fair deal or just those that ask for it?
Do they know what they are getting when they buy your products or services? Is your service consistent across the board?
Do you try to hide things in the “fine print”?
When times get tough, do you offer the same level of service as when times are good? What about the reverse?
Maybe some companies can make a quick sale by pulling a “fast one” on a customer but is that any way to treat the person who keeps your business a business? Customers appreciate honesty and will come back to you for it. We have all been down the road of dealing with those that like to hide things in the finer print but we also know that once someone has proven themselves to be dishonest, no one wants anything to do with them. Your customers are no different. Be honest and respectful to your customers and make sure your team does the same. However I have also learned that being upfront and respectful with a customer in the beginning creates a special bond that can easily withstand any adversity that may pop up along the way.
All of these items affect the strength of your relationship with your customers and determine the longevity of your business. A customer has hired you because they require your expertise or services however remember they are the experts on what their pains are. Don’t presume to know this. Always communicate with them and never ever betray their trust. Trust isn’t an easy thing to ever get back once it’s lost, and neither is a customer.