Monday, July 31, 2017

Staying Present

Building Customer Relationships: Part 3

Last week, we talked about what makes a strong foundation for customer relationships and have found that loving your customers and communicating with them are two of the biggest factors of that foundation.  But once you have this foundation built, it doesn't end there.  You still have to stay present as your customer relationships begin to grow.

What does staying present mean?  Staying present means:
  • Truly listening to what your customers have to say
  • Addressing their concerns
  • Anticipating their needs
  • Updating them on the progress your business has made
  • Showing them what else you can offer to improve the lifestyle they lead
Customer relationships are dynamic; they are constantly growing and changing, but it's their progress that makes it so exciting.  As time goes on, your customers will want and need different things, so of the bullet points listed above, the two most important are to anticipate their needs and listen to what they have to say.

When it comes to anticipating your customer's needs, think of when you're eating at a restaurant.  If your glass of water is running low, your waiter/waitress should refill the water before it's completely gone.  They are anticipating your needs, rather than waiting for you to ask them for more water.   Another example is getting a new phone.  You're excited to use it, testing out the features, etc.  But after a few days, you may think: I should probably do something to protect this phone.  Well, your phone company is thinking the same thing, so they contact you showing you phone cases and screen protectors, anticipating your need for protecting your new phone.

 Think of what you have done for your customer before.  Has it been a long enough period of time where they would need an upgrade, need something else to be fixed, or need another product/service that you have?  Think about how you can anticipate your customers' needs based on what they currently have.

Sometimes it can be hard to listen to your customers, especially when they only have negative things to say.  If someone is upset with your service, they may write a bad online review or something of that nature.  But even when their comments are negative, listen to them.  If they are upset with you for not showing up on time or taking longer than expected to complete a job, there are tools to help you manage the way you spend your time; take advantage of them.  If they complain about the work not being done as well as they expected, take that feedback and use it to better your work in the future.  If they complain about the price being higher than expected, there are many price estimation tools that can help you with that as well.  

One of the best examples of this type of situation is Domino's.  Many people would complain about their pizza crust not tasting good, that it's not soft enough and tastes like cardboard.  But Domino's listened to what their customers were saying and completely redesigned the crust of their pizza to make their customers happy and strengthen the relationship they had.  

So what are your customers saying?  What positive things have they said that you need to keep up over time?  What negative comments have they made that tell you there may be some problem areas in your business that you need to look into and change?

Staying present with your customers will help you to not only grow your customer relationships, but will also give you an external view of your business operations allowing you to see the changes you need to make; so listen and make those changes.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Starting with a Strong Foundation

Building Customer Relationships: Part 2

Now that you're starting with a clean slate, it's time to build up a strong foundation with your customers.  This foundation is built upon what many would consider to be "the basics".  Treat your customers with respect, be patient and understanding with them when they ask for support, don't try to win an argument, ask good questions to guide them to the solution they need, etc.  But what is the biggest factor, the best thing you can do to build a relationship with your customers?

Love them.

You have to love your customers.  This is something that is easier said than done, of course.  It's easy to love the customers you have when they are easy to work with, when they are happy to be speaking with you, or when they want to tell you how great your product or service has been working for them.  It's not so easy when they call in upset or frustrated, or when things aren't working the way they want them to and they take their frustration out on you.

We have all experienced both types of customers (and we have all probably been both types of customers ourselves too), and once we have one bad encounter with a specific customer, it's hard to love them in the future. To love difficult customers, you need to change your mindset.  Every day is a new day.  Every conversation is a new conversation.

So when you recognize their number calling on the phone or see a notification of a new email from them, before you pick up that phone or start going on a rampage with your email response, make a mental note to: 1) remember that you have been in their shoes before, 2) erase any negative thoughts of conversations you've had with them in the past, and 3) go into the conversation with positivity and excitement.  If you do, your attitude will rub off on them making the conversation go much smoother.

The other major foundational piece of building strong customer relationships is....

Good communication.

  • Ask your customers questions, make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly what it is that they need. 
  • Communicate with them regularly to ask how your product or service is working for them making sure they are satisfied with you and your business.  
  • Don't just stick to small talk, get to know your customers.  Understanding who they are and how they think can allow you to service them better.  

For example, some people are so detail oriented that they can't step back and see the bigger picture of how things will fit together.  Others are the opposite: they see the big picture and how a project should look when it's finished, but can't understand all of the smaller steps that must be taken first. 

A few years ago, we had our bathrooms redone in our house.  When the tiler was laying out the shower tiles, I didn't understand why he started in the middle of the wall instead of just starting on the edge and working his way down.  He said he does it this way so that the tiles on each end of the shower are the same size.  In this situation, I was thinking about the big picture, rather than the details.  Just based on our conversation, he could understand my way of thinking and was able to explain in way that made sense to me.

Getting to know your customers can help you see the way they think: are they detail oriented, or a big  picture thinker, or something else?  Once you know this, you can communicate more clearly with them, as the tiler did for me.

Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Customer Mistakes you Could Easily be Making

Building Customer Relationships: Part 1

Managing customers and ensuring their satisfaction is one of the biggest concerns of any business.  The happiness of your customers allows everything else to fall into place.  Happy customers lead to happier employees, positive reviews and word-of-mouth, more business, and more revenue.

But what are you doing that could be hindering your relationship with your customers?  Here are a few common customer mistakes you could easily be making.

1. You Don't Know Them

It's important to know your customers.  Know their name, know the products and/or services they like to use, and know the problems they have had in the past.  Knowing your customer's history can go a long ways to improve satisfaction.  The more you know about your customer, the better you can serve them in the future.

2. Minimal Communication

Customers like to know that they are cared for and that they have the support available to them when they need it.  Now, you don't want to bombard them by calling them every few hours just to check in, but stay connected with them, and connect with them on multiple channels (through email, phone, social media, etc.).  Make sure they have what they need and that any concerns or questions they have are resolved.  

3. One-Size-Fits-All Solution

When it comes to your customers, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Every person you serve has different requirements and different needs for a solution.  You must be able to understand the different needs they have and cater your products and/or services towards that.  Make them know that you are willing to work with them to find the perfect fit that they need.

4. Sending Them in a Loop

Make sure that you take a direct approach when your customers contact you.  There's nothing they hate more than having to be put on hold for extensive amounts of time and be transferred around from Person A to Person B to Person C.  Make sure you ask enough questions and get enough clarification from them to know exactly who it is that they need to speak to.

5. Having Inaccurate Data

Living in the 21st century, technology and data are inevitable in a business.  As your business grows, your amount of data will become almost overwhelming, so use technology to organize and take control of it. Customers like to see all the details of what they're paying for.  If you can organize your data in a way that gives your customers precise dates, times, notes, materials used, etc., you not only make your customers happier, but you protect yourself and your employees by being able to prove that you've done the work.

Customer satisfaction is key to any business.  Start to take a look at how you interact with your customers.  What customer mistakes have you been making?  What has been making them happy vs. unhappy?  If you want to start building up your relationships with customers, it's important to start with a clean slate.  Recognize the bad habits you've fallen into and get rid of them.  Once you do, you can start to build a new foundation with your customers, and that starts with good communication.

To learn about IndusTrack and the solutions and tools that we offer for workforce management and in-vehicle GPS tracking, visit our website or contact us at (612) 746-4017 ext. 1.