Know Your Customer

Too often, as business owners, we believe we know our customers, knowcustomerbut too often knowledge of the customer is the result of “crisis” contact when something unexpected occurred or when you wanted something – like an order. Consequently our impressions of the customer’s “need” can be blurred due to the immediacy of the moment and not the result of a conscious effort to sit down and discuss what customers are really challenged with and what important needs are poorly met or not at all.

When we want to get market information necessary to define a new product or service specification, our impulse is to talk to customers, but do we have the right contact in the company to get valuable information. A recent client of mine wanted to undergo a Voice of the Customer process which is by definition dependent upon valid customer input. However, the majority of the contacts within their prime customers were those who processed orders today, who were not in positions to provide input on where the needs of their customers were taking them over the next planning horizon.

Developing trusted relationships with your key customers takes time, initiative commitment and perseverance.

  • Customers are also busy and are not interested in wasting their time so make a customer contact worthwhile in not only getting information that you desire but also sharing information that is of value to the customer.
  • Customers will rarely invite you to their door so it will take initiative to overcome the competing priorities for their time to schedule time with you.
  • Do something with the results from your meeting so that the customer can see that there is a productive reason to make time to see you.
  • Seek your customer out and do not take refusal to meet as personal rejection but as the mark of a busy person particularly in the early stages of building your relationship.

Conducting a proactive relationship with your customer opens the door to feedback that you might not always get through normal communication and company contacts. A customer once told another client of mine about a circumstance with their product delivery that obviously was not what the client wanted the customer to experience. When he pursued why they did not learn of it earlier, he was told that until he showed interest in “knowing” them they assumed that he and his staff were satisfied with a mediocre company performance and, as a result, they were actively seeking other companies to provide better service.

A healthy customer relationship will, over time, result in a trusted partner relationship where valuable insights can be gained that will allow you to adjust your product or service offering to meet the changing demands and directions of your current customers and those companies that you would hope to do more business with.

Know your customer!

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