A company relies on customers to grow the business. So sales staff/customer relations staff work hard to retain current ones and bring in new ones. At the same time, you rely on others in the organization to provide some aspect of what your customer needs in order to create a raving fan. It’s simple and very normal in the relationship between customers and a company. When you think about it rationally and unemotionally it’s straight-forward. So what’s the problem you ask? Ah … good question!
There is no problem as long as everyone …
- Sees the value that each customer contributes to the success of the organization
- Sees the need to work hard to retain each customer to avoid the ‘revolving door’ too often found within organizations
- Recognizes that satisfying the customer often takes a coordinated effort within several areas of the company … all determined to be successful in any customer’s eyes.
- Believes the adage that is easier/cheaper to keep a current customer than to get a new one
Often, this is not the case. Take the situation that one of my clients recently encountered when he began a new sales position in an established company taking over an existing customer sales territory. His first order of business was to meet and introduce himself to the existing clients, understand their needs and look for opportunities to both maintain and grow the relationship. He set out to successfully do his work and almost immediately, within his own organization, encountered a troubling and potentially destructive situation. He ran head-first into a long-held perspective of some of his clients as being demanding, never satisfied and always wanting more than they had been promised … and wanting it yesterday! The result was to encounter constant resistance internally that required that he prod, push and pull to get what he needed in order to meet the customer’s expectations. The result was frustration on all sides and the consistent threat of a lost customer which wasn’t in anyone’s best interest … especially the company’s.
This situation does exist within many organizations. However, once you decide that you don’t want nor are you willing to accept it, the question becomes what you can do about it? Here are some suggestions:
- Take steps to understand the past issues that have shaped the perspective that works against being successful with the customer.
- How are they perceived as difficult and demanding?
- How are they perceived as treating some of your co-workers with little respect or regard?
- How are they failing to express or show appreciation for what is done for them when others often need to jump through hoops to fulfill their needs?
- What it would take to alter their perception of this customer presuming all within your organization understand the desirability, need and importance of keeping all customers for life, find out from those disgruntled co-workers.
- To what do they attribute the negative perspective that is held?
- What could the customer do or provide that would make their job an easier and more efficient?
- What are they willing to do that would meet the customer part way enabling this to carry forth as a successful relationship?
- Speak with the customer to understand their view and perspective of your company.
- Where are they feeling completely satisfied with what you provide them?
- What do they believe would improve the service and thus, the relationship and what does that look like?
- What are the things they you/the company could do that would strengthen your value to your customer?
- Based on what you’ve learned internally, relate things that the customer might do to enable you to serve them better and be more effective.
- Perhaps it’s being timelier in their requests thus providing more time for you to perform in the customer’s behalf.
- Arrange a meeting of key people within your company who have a role in fulfilling the customer needs with each relating their roll in serving them. Familiarity works well to break down divides in both directions.
Addressing this internal situation can come from any direction. All it takes is for someone to recognize that an existing negative perspective on the part of any individual or department held about a valued customer is the recipe for frustration and upset in the short term and a failed effort in the long run. It’s always time to develop an improved recipe for success.