Being supplier of choice
In today's world of big data, improving business relationships is assumed to require complex systems and analysis of the minutiae of customer actions and choices. For smaller businesses and non-commercial groups who perhaps don't have those resources or data, does that mean Customer Relationship Management should take a back seat? Definitely not!
Nurturing relationships is about connecting with people through the way you do business with them. Rather than depending on complex data analysis, relationships are built on meeting needs, managing perceptions and expectations, and helping people address their problems. There are good reasons to invest in nurturing relationships with your users and customers:
- Operational efficiency: closer relations builds trust and collabration so that working together becomes faster and cheaper.
- Retention: the relationship between buyer and seller will have more influence on the customer's next purchase decision than the technology or service offering itself. Customers will evaluate the relationship by how well a supplier has enabled them to realise the benefits of the purchase (such as product reliability, user support and responsiveness to problems).
- Referrals: nurturing relationship can help to open doors to new customers. Research from Bain & Co has shown that satisfied customers help to bring new business through recommendations and positive comments to their networks and communities.
- Development: regular interaction with customers provides opportunities for learning about evolving customers' needs and insight about how products and services should develop to stay in line with their direction of travel.
How you can shape customer relationships
Understanding how well customers have been able to meet their needs requires more than a customer satisfaction survey. However, gathering information may not be straight-forward as your customers may not 'tell it as it is' directly to a supplier; and survey wording may reflect the supplier's perspective rather than the end user's.
Use a third party to provide an impartial interface for qualitative interviews, and an external perspective for designing and analysing research, enabling you to learn more about
- your customers: their needs and expectations
- the customer experience: how good is your service, support, communication, interaction and recovery
A challenge facing many vendors is ensuring customers understand and value the supplier's contribution when the service contract needs to be renewed. Executives who authorise purchases may not have direct experience of the technology or service itself; users change roles and administrators who recommend purchases may not have been the original specifier; and customers have other priorities and may not understand the supplier's role behind the scenes.
Regular, targeted communications can help to manage customer perceptions so that you have the advantage when the contract comes round for renewal.
- Develop regular touch point communications to remain visible to users and influencers
- Use communications such as Client Value Reviews to highlight invisible benefits
Simple reminders and follow-up communications can be an effective way to ensure customers get the benefits from their purchase. Reminders about key messages from training courses can help to transfer knowledge and embed new skills. Tips and tricks about how to use product functions ensures that users get the best performance from new systems.
Stay connected with your customers through:
- follow-up communications to deliver outcomes
- regular touch-point communications to share product information and advice
- case studies and solution guides to support users
Customer perceptions and expectations are strongly influenced by the consistency and accuracy of information and behaviour across the multitude of touch-points - documents, online, team member behaviour.
Use a communications audit to see the view from the other side and develop communications skills within your team:
- Use a communications audit to see the customer's view: information and service consistency, accuracy, timeliness, usability
- Develop communications skills within your team: use the ABCDE tool to improve communications quality
Contact us for more details
Please get in touch for a no-obligation discussion about how to manage your customer relationships.