I am continually intrigued by what really drives clients’ buying and switching behavior. More and more, I have seen that providers (both internal and external) constantly work to create a performance-driven culture within their organizations at the expense of their customers, such as by cutting corners that directly or indirectly affect service in the name of efficiency.
What does “driving a performance-driven culture” really mean? I find that, while managers strive to have happy bunnies, it is not what drives customers’ buying behavior
Tons of books have been written about this, and Vineet Nayer has pointedly written that employees must come before customers for a business to be successful, so I will not debate that. But it still leaves a big question unanswered: What does service oriented toward customers really mean? Does it mean serving coffee or reducing prices, or throwing freebies at a customer? No. What it takes, as in real life, is listening with your heart to understand what really matters to your customer. I often hear explanations like, “We lost that deal because the competitor was less expensive” or “We didn’t showcase the value we provided” or “We were not innovative enough.” But, inevitably, the company that won the deal provided the price, value and innovation the customer required, but they also did something over and beyond that sealed the deal.
Engaging with customers over the past decades has taught me that those who win and successfully deliver engagements have an eye and an ear for what the customer is really trying to achieve. This requires being willing to say “no” even when saying “yes” could produce a short-term win.
Those organizations that have been persistent with this approach are the ones that have had tremendous growth. Take Apple, Amazon, or even the shop around the corner: apart from choice, the reason you buy from them is the service they provide you. They are still on it, being persistent about building that relationship with you. Everyone wants to win those million-dollar deals, but how many make the persistent effort required to truly understand what the customer really wants. We all know the old school tree tree-swing project management cartoon, yet we eventually fall prey to the faults it illustrates, and then watch our unhappy customers walk away.
So where does the magic come from? Is it saying “no” or saying “yes”? In truth, it is being true to the customer. More often than not, by telling a customer what they need to hear instead of what you (or they) think they want you to say, you become a trusted advisor.
Here are some simple "9" rules I have seen work with most clients
- Listen, Listen, Listen. And then act, act and ACT.
- Don’t play the customer against their own vices or their own organization.
- Arrogance does not get you anywhere. Remember that you are not the best thing since the moon landing.
- “No” is not the end of the world. But explain every “No,” supporting it with facts and big data.
- Don’t ass-u-me (still my favorite). Remember most of us are not trained as rocket scientists, so keep it simple. Just because you think your organization gets it does not mean your customer gets it.
- Persistence requires consistence. If you provide the same experience every time, the customer will not only like you but start trusting you. This will build a relationship over time that will be difficult to replicate.
- Shun fads. Don’t try to get your customer to take on the latest thing/service/offering just because it is the new “magic bullet” on the market.
- Those who don’t listen lose out. Your customer left because you quit listening to them or, even worse, never bothered to.
- Keep your feet on the ground. Be realistic with your customers. The products and services you offer are valuable, but costly as well. Don’t drive up costs. He’s paying the bill, and eventually he will feel it pinch.