It’s a hellish point, but every customer a company has ever acquired is no longer a customer at some point. This can be for a multitude of reasons, ranging from a niggling argument to the moment when customer and supplier “just don’t fit together” anymore. How do you make sure that that moment of saying goodbye is as far in the future as possible?
A good customer relationship begins with managing expectations. Especially in the service industry, agreeing on expectations up front is a MUST. To prevent this from being skewed, large companies set up buttoned-up SLAs. Smaller companies do this less. These are often agreements based on verbal agreements, a promise or a general product description. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but then the mutual expectation is precisely a pillar on which results are viewed. SMEs should also capture more? This certainly benefits the delivering party because in the end, results are always considered. If it is ensured in advance that there is no room for different perceptions then there will not be apples to oranges comparisons either. Pretty nice.
No news is (not) good news
Many companies have the attitude that if a customer does not complain they are satisfied. I have found out through experience that this is not always the case. Often the lack of feedback is a sign that the relationship with a customer is not at all as strong as a business owner or account manager thinks. Completely, the client cancels the partnership and in the meantime has already closed a deal with a peer in the market, without ever signaling that anything was wrong. Customer loyalty therefore goes beyond the bottle of wine at Christmas or the annual invitation to an event or trade show. A simple solution is to regularly ask regular customers how they perceive your service and how you can serve them even better. If you don’t have the capacity or competencies in-house to do this, outsource it to a specialist agency. Despite having a “strange” person calling, your customer experiences that their opinion is important to you. As a side note, customers are also often more willing to give an honest answer to someone they don’t know.
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Even in after-sales, the most important factors are appreciation and the genuine interest in someone’s opinion. Make sincere compliments and emphasize the importance of fine cooperation. But also be sure to dare to ask for feedback. After all, if you know where a customer sees room for improvement in your service, you can still do something about it before the hordes of salespeople from your competitors walk in the door. In addition, by responding appropriately to the living need, you can also strengthen the relationship by showing that you are quick to shift gears and value the relationship. Discounting and crediting invoices emphatically does NOT help. This confirms to your client that you are wrong and accept that you have not delivered value. In the relationship, this means you are down 2-0 in the 89th minute.
The more often substantive conversations occur with a customer, the easier it becomes to ask about the other challenges that are prevalent within a company that you may be able to address with a product or service. The energy you put into a customer remains the same but the revenue in return increases. This means increasing your average customer value, lowering sales costs and increasing returns. In addition, a customer who purchases several products from you will be less likely to switch at a better offer. Providing different products or services often also doubles the number of contact moments with the customer which in turn has a positive effect on the long-term relationship.