Proactively building robust and trusting relationships with customers provides opportunities to become their top advisor and go-to vendor when it comes to snow and ice management. On your part, anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving these issues in a manner that protects, nurtures and strengthens your customer relationship.
The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their winter snow and ice needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients hanging for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities for your customers and present new ideas when your customers are most likely ready to consider them.
Successful sales and marketing team members work closely together to create synergies among all the communications being used to connect with customers. Production and service teams must also work in sync with sales to deliver the quality promised to the customer. There is nothing worse for the client relationship than a sales person making a promise that you ultimately cannot honor. In most organizations, the operations silo-ed from sales. Each has their own metrics by which they are evaluated and there is often little communication among them. When that happens, the entire customer relationship is at risk.
Enterprises that calibrate and coordinate their ability to supply the snow and ice management services the customer demands will be the most successful over the long-term. They minimize waste and inefficiencies because they are creating specific products their customers want and will buy. Sales relationships that have been strategized throughout the enterprise provide the best opportunities for gaining accurate customer intelligence on product specifications and anticipated sales volumes. The same things hold true for those selling services.
When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it's easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high-trust relationship.
When there is a service glitch, client relationships can be jeopardized. Clients make decisions based on trust. If something significant interferes with the trust relationship, the entire account is at risk. When a service problem does occurs, it is easy for everyone to assume the relationship will resolve the issue. But when it does not, everyone must remember that business is business. The personal relationships developed with care over time can vanish when service providers make mistakes. Both parties have their own jobs to protect and their own internal political challenges.
The best approach is to operate on a “no surprises” basis with your clients. When there is an issue with service, the sooner you alert the customer the more options they have to maintain the trusted relationship. Understanding the latitude and flexibility you each have when there is a problem can move you faster to finding a resolution. Perhaps it is offering a price discount for accepting some reduced quality options or including additional or upgraded service to offset the inequity. No matter what, your client's problem needs to be resolved effectively before it becomes a relationship nightmare or results in the loss of a major revenue stream to your company.
Building and managing relationships with your prospects and key referral sources requires effort. It is more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. More personal and consistent one-to-one relationships are a must in achieving your mutual goals.
You have to move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Then match your outreach and communications to move them through their decision-making cycle. Reassess your prospect management to determine if you are relying on stale efforts that do little to move the sale forward or deepen your relationship.
Review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management, and don’t take your client relationships for granted. Just like any relationship, they need to be nurtured to be preserved and grown.
Actively managing your customer and prospect interactions creates more opportunities for engagement, and each engagement takes you one step closer to signing another contract or selling a bigger deal.
Being your customers’ subject-matter expert, anticipating their needs before they do and doing their homework for them are essential to successful and lasting customer relationships. Improving your customer’s experience will build word-of-mouth buzz about your effectiveness as a true professional – rather than just someone who manages snow and ice in the winter.
Jill J. Johnson is president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, which helps clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth.