8 Steps for Sustainable Relationships With Your Customers
You are a service provider - a coach, a consultant, high tech service provider or any other business owner that gives service.
It took you forever to win a customer. It cost you money to earn this customer. You worked there for some time and now you start to feel that maybe your relationship is about to end. It is just a hunch. It doesn’t have to be that way.
You can establish sustainability, and work with this customer for a very long time. How can you do that in 8 simple steps?
1 Be professional - They hired you for a reason. A pain that bothered them, or a project to be done. You must show professionalism. Do exactly what you promised. It is recommended that the promise will be clear and in writing to set the expectations clear.
2 Know the owner - Who hired you for the project? He might be the most important person to satisfy. Understand the company politics. Map them exactly so you can understand the different forces, yet be respectful to all parties. Having said that, always remember who signs the check.
3 Build relationships – When you work for a company it is recommended to build good relationships with the customer who is in charge of the project (owner). Most of the time, it will be like having a friend. Don't stop with the owner. Build good relationships with whomever you work with and that includes: the secretary, the cleaning lady, the guy in the cafeteria and all parties involved in the work process. You don’t have to make friends, yet you must respect them all - smile, listen and help when help is needed.
4 Put quality first - Don't wait to the end of the project; Put quality controls into your process. It goes back to having a methodology that is repeatable and that serves you right. Also, ask your customer if he is satisfied with your service. Don't wait for him to say that something is not right. It may be too late. Customers hired you to have a top notch service / solution. Put quality as your number one priority.
5 Give value - You did what was expected of you. Now it is time to give more. Take a look at "Give them pickles". What is your pickle? You can give a free seminar, bring in an expert and give extra work and not charge for it. These things are what we call "beyond customer satisfaction". This is one of the greatest things that will allow you to establish a long lasting relationship with your customers.
6 Charge with reason – You want to be profitable. That is understandable. Be reasonable with your prices. When you work with a customer for a long time you must have a win-win relationship. Don’t charge too much. Ask your customer - from time to time, if he is o.k. with the prices. Sometimes - a raise is in order, or maybe a decrease may show the customer that you are side by side with him. I remember, while I was CEO of a software company, the big bubble crash came and my customers asked to lower the rates. It went on for two straight years. I did it, and we survived the downfall together – customer and vendor. They even hired new people from us, because the rates allowed it. Other vendors fought these customers and lost all their business there. For me, these win-win relationships allowed me to work with these customers for many years.
7 Look and listen – There is a reason you are working with this customer. They have pains and needs, which you can solve. To be able to stay longer, look for new business avenues and new projects. Listen, and then when an opportunity presents itself grab it and suggest that you will be responsible for it. At times you may not be an expert in that area. That is an opportunity for you to grow.
8 Grow and learn – As a professional, you have a responsibility, to bring your customer the most up to date know-how in your profession. In order to do that, always read articles and books, attend conferences and do all you can, to grow yourself as a professional. As a business owner you have the responsibility to allow all your employees to grow and learn, and by that to bring value to all your customers.
It costs you a lot to have a new customer. Staying longer with a customer is good for you and is great for him, too. Changing horses can be expensive for both of you. Sustainable relationships are a win-win relationship and it also increases the life time value of your customers.