My wife likes to tell the story of how her prom date, in the middle of a very nice expensive dinner, proceeded to lick his knife clean. My wife was horrified, and that first date became the last. The poor guy probably had no idea why he never got another date, as she certainly didn’t tell him. Many businesses treat their prospects as dates during the sales process, and if they don’t “lick the knife”, they might get them as customers. However, as with marriage, you have to continue to “date” your customer. This means you have to be thinking about making the customer happy, and treating them the way they want and need to be treated. If you fail to do so, your customer will leave you and probably won’t say why.
Nurture the Customer/Vendor Relationship
Ask yourself this: Are you communicating continuously and effectively with your customers? You might be tempted to think that as long as you keep their network up, life is good – but it’s not that simple. If you’re not communicating consistently with a customer, someone else will. You should “touch” a customer by phone, email, or letter at least once every 28 days (a newsletter is a great way to do this). While email and self-help web portals like the Tigerpaw Customer Portal make it easy to avoid talking to a customer, you still have to make time for face-to-face contact (i.e. “date night”). Start by hand delivering your monthly reports, taking the time to explain them to your customer; you need to establish yourself as a trusted advisor. Over time, you can wean the customer down to quarterly face-to-face meetings, but you need to see them in person no less than once a quarter, and don’t forget to use electronic communication to touch them at least once every 28 days.
Let’s assume you are communicating consistently – who are you communicating with? I’m hoping that your list includes the owners at the very least – but that’s not enough. You need to identify the key people in each customer’s organization, and then build a relationship with them. Consider those most impacted by the up/down time of the network – such as the executive assistant, the IT guy, and the secretaries. You need multiple people at each customer site to know who you are and what you do – you need evangelists in your customers, so build these relationships as soon as possible. Again, this could just be a newsletter, or it could be bringing a small token such as flowers to the receptionist when you show up for your face-to-face meetings. They will think of you when new business needs (aka opportunities) arise, and they will be more patient with you when things go wrong. A note about these relationships: pay particular attention to the quiet customers – they are more likely to be leaving you.
One last note on creating lasting relationships – use customer satisfaction surveys to gauge the happiness of your clients, and to find opportunities to serve them better. We have Tigerpaw set up to send a survey whenever a ticket is closed. If a customer even hints at being unhappy with the service they received from us, our support manager picks up the phone and calls. If the person doesn’t answer, she leaves a message but she also calls again later. It becomes her mission to personally speak with the customer to find out how we could have served them better and to let them know we care. It works wonders! Some surveys are better than others, and if you would like to learn more about creating effective surveys, I highly suggest you view the webinar Integrating Online Surveys into your Day to Day Operations.
By constantly communicating with people throughout each customer’s organization, you will ensure that they think of you for new services and work patiently with you to resolve issues as they come up. Always be treating them like you’re dating, not like you’ve been married a long time. If you neglect them, they will find someone else to take them out.
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