Sometimes we get so focused on completing the work for our new customer, that we forget to check in with them along the way to ensure they are happy with us. Missing that opportunity to talk with them and find out how we are doing can lead to the customer becoming disengaged early, which isn’t in our best interest.
It’s tough to set aside the time for these check-ins because we’re so busy with all the things going on every day in our business. Somehow, we need to find the time, because nurturing these customer relationships is critical to our future success. If you don’t get proactive with your customer management process, you’ll continue to be reactive and risk losing your best customers.
Today I’ll share with you a simple but effective process that you can use to get on top of your customer relationships so that you can reduce your stress.
Recently, I’ve been working with a successful and growing company that has about 15 employees and has been in business for about 5 years. When I started working with them, we quickly identified that they have a superior quality product, outstanding people, and good processes, but they were not confident that all their customer relationships were on solid ground.
Critical Success Factors
Referrals are critical to this company’s future success and they couldn’t wait until the end of the contract to test customer satisfaction. One bad experience could significantly and negatively impact all future business.
In our early discussions, I could see that here are many dynamics impacting the success of the projects. They were very focussed on the quality and cost of the end product but less focus on the customer experience. We determined that the customer experience would set them apart from the competitors.
They needed to be proactive with the customer relations so they can anticipate the customer needs, not simply respond to them, and they needed an effective way to help them gauge customer satisfaction from the start to the end of any project.
With my help they developed and implemented a simple tool and process to ensure they engaged in high quality conversations with their customers at appropriate times during the project.
Step #1 – Key Milestones. Every business has different workflows and processes. Quickly map out the significant steps in your business and determine the best opportunities to formally check in with your customers.
Step #2 – Client Discussion. This step does not need to be complicated. You can easily just ask the following simple but important questions.
- What are we doing well?
- What do we need to do better?
Most importantly, be prepared to listen to what they say. This isn’t a time to provide excuses.
Step #3 – Capture Feedback. Your customers, like all of us, just want to know that they were heard. Makes notes of the conversation and send them a brief email with the key messages. Perhaps you can make some simple recommendations to improve some of the issues identified.
Step #4 – Two more questions. At the end of the project, ask the customer two additional questions.
- Would you refer us to friends or colleagues?
If you’ve done good work, and you followed the previous three steps, it’s hard to imagine that the customer wouldn’t refer you. The key question here is why?
If they won’t refer you, it’s critical to understand what you need to do to improve. If they will refer you, the “why” provides a perfect value statement that can be used to market your business to new customers.
You can continue to stress about whether you’re hitting the mark with your customers and do nothing about it – this will just cause you more stress and not give you direction.
Or you can take deliberate and assertive steps to improving your situation by asking your customers how you can improve. Take those steps now!