1. Get the fundamentals right.
With the ever-increasing rate of technological change, companies are more inclined to continually offer bigger, improved, feature-rich products or services, convinced that the latest and greatest will put their customer over the moon. Often times this is done at the expense of getting core service/product delivery done correctly and to client specifications. Providing product/service on time – to specifications – will win the hearts and minds of your customers every time, over giving them more than they want (or need) half the time.
2. Don’t assume customers speak your language.
Companies of any size have their own unique process and develop their own nomenclature and acronyms over time, to the point that many of them compile formal dictionaries of terms for internal use. Your customer may adopt some of this language, giving the appearance of being insiders to your company. Remember, they are customers. Their understanding of your company’s world is different than yours, if for no other reason than they are outside it, not inside. They have only partial knowledge at best. Make sure communication is clear, concise, and complete. It is hard to over-communicate with a business customer.
3. Ask for the business.
Everyone wants to be valued – even the business customer. Make sure they understand that you want their business, and when you get it, tell them you are grateful for it, and will value it always. One company, a multi-national industry leader, instructs its sales force to close every customer interaction by always asking for the business and thanking the customer for their business. This simple forthright request shows that every customer is important to your company. Gratitude is a great relationship builder that benefits everyone.
4. Be proactive when things go wrong.
A business relationship with any volume to it is going to occasionally turn up problems. When you notice problems before your clients, alert them as soon as possible – particularly if they have a customer who is likely to complain when the problem surfaces publicly. When you reach out for your client, do so with a ready set of potential solutions that don’t involve more work for them to correct the situation for themselves or their customer. Make their service recovery easy.
5. Ask your customer for their feedback.
You and your customer are in this together. Your success (or failure) is mutual. Help your customer help you by asking them for their insights and candid feedback on your performance on a regular basis, in order to make your company a better provider for the customer. Not only does this recognize their feedback as valuable, it creates psychological investment on their part.