Since 1997 he had paid £32 a month to one of the big Internet providers for his home broadband.
Not a big enough amount to bother about but eventually he succumbed to a free broadband offer from Sky.
He phoned his original provider to tell them he was leaving and they promptly offered him exactly the same service he’d been getting for £7 instead of £32 a month.
They expected him to be pleased. He wasn’t. He went with Sky and they lost him forever.
So here’s the skinny dear reader: it’s a good idea to treat your established clients like your new clients. If you don’t and they find out they’re probably going to be pissed with you.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It comes down to one question that you need to ask of each client relationship you have:
“Can I send non-work related texts to this person and feel confident that they will reply?”
That’s it really.
- Yes – your relationship is where you need it to be. Keep it fresh and keep it active.
- No - keep the dialogue going, get to know them more and add whatever value you can. If nothing improves give the client to somebody else to manage; sometimes the spark just isn’t there.
You’re really seeking a client relationship which is 5% off being the same as you have with your friends. When you can pass the “Text-test” you’ll know you’ve reached it.
I have written about perceived indifference before but following a recent experience I wanted to explore it a little more.
Let me keep this one very brief: -
- We work very hard to win new clients
- We shower them with our attention
- After they have signed on the dotted line our attention is drawn towards the next target
- Sometimes we spend less and less time on our clients
- Perhaps we don’t listen as much as we used to
- Worse still we do less “little extras” that aren’t really necessary but the client appreciates
- We forget that strong relationships are built on making people feel important, appreciated and understood.
So what happens next? We learn that one of our clients has given a piece of business to one of our competitors. We’re angry and disappointed but we can’t see how this was our fault. Mmmmmm.
My advice is as follows: -
- Examine your client estate and make absolutely sure each and every member is being looked after in a way that will ensure their continued loyalty.
- Step up your game as required.
My family have always been fussy eaters but never more so than when they’re ordering steak. Mrs Ames likes it rare with a dash of French mustard; son #1 likes it rare but has to have a sauce on it; son #2 can’t eat it unless it is medium well done with a heavy sauce; daughter can only have plain steak but it has to be medium and me; the bluer the better.
So what, I hear you cry. Well just imagine an Ames family trip to a steak house and all of us being served identical steaks. Quel horreur! Chances are at least two of us would not be happy campers and so more likely to bad-mouth the restaurant or give the place next door a go next time we fancied some meaty comestibles.
Now consider how you serve your “steaks”. If you provide your offering in the same way to everybody you stand a real chance of letting somebody down; similar to a failed trip to the local steakhouse for the hungry Ames’s.
In fact the way in which a product or service is served up heavily influences which way the game goes: deliver what you sell in a way the client prefers and its one nil to you; the other way around and it’s a draw at best.
So what’s an honest broker like you supposed to do about this? Let’s go back to the restaurant for a second visit. The waiter delivers the menus, tells you about the specials then goes away again giving you time to decide. They don’t hassle you and they don’t try and shoe-horn into taking their choice.
A little later they return to answer any questions and take down every detail of your order; they don’t just write down “5 steaks”. This is the nub of it all really. After you have found out what your clients want press on and discover how they would like it delivered and then make a note of it. That’s why God invented customer relationship management systems!
Typically you should look at these 7 key areas: -
- Communication: how often, the method (face to face, telephone, email) and style (no-nonsense, relaxed, friendly).
- Intervention: do they want you to deliver and clear off or do they want you to continue to be involved after the sale even if it is to see how things are going on?
- Omissions: quite often people don’t want the full offering “I’ll take mine on brown and hold the onions”. BMW charge extra for this; cheeky little Bavarian devils!
- Customisation: moving one on from omissions give your clients some choices. The more bespoke you can make your offering the better it will fit and the more they will rave about it. Think Starbucks here; black coffee if you want it but if you want a customised cup of coffee you’ve gone to the right place.
- Driver or passenger: some people like you to drive the process by giving choices and expressing preferences others like to do it themselves. It is important to get this one right.
- Buying process: understanding what people have to go through in their own organisation when they want to buy something is crucial. You can quite often make the buying process much easier for them (and quicker for you) by understanding what “t’s” need to be crossed and “i’s” dotted.
- Interests: and finally what are they interested in both professionally and personally. The more you know of what they like the more you can tickle their individual fancies. This is probably the most important of all – get it right and your clients become one step away from being your friends after which everything changes.
So here’s the skinny on great customer care: it’s probably a good idea to understand your client’s needs and preferences, make a note of them and then aim to meet them every time you sell them something. Not really rocket science but since most people can’t be arsed to serve up anything other than “medium rare” just making the effort puts you ahead of the game.
Hello client loyalty, big revenues and client referrals; good bye indifference, serious competition and hard times.
Why does anybody swap suppliers? Sometimes it’s because there is a cheaper alternative but mostly it isn’t. Would you swap dentists because a cheaper one set up next door? Unlikely. In reality people keep the status quo and only move on for a reason and in most cases whether they stay or go is up to you.
Here are three of the most popular causes for client departures: -
- “Perceived indifference” - the client thinks you don’t care any more even though you do. They feel neglected and can only look back with wistful fondness to the days when you were courting them and couldn’t do enough for them. They just want to be loved and cared for but sadly you’re just not hitting the spot any more.
- Poor quality – you simply aren’t delivering the quality they expect for the money they’re paying and because of point 1 above you don’t even know it. Regardless of the product or service you offer great quality is the best form of protection you can get.
- Knock-out deal - one of your competitors has a brain-wave and comes up with a new and innovative product that totally blows your client away. Sometimes this innovation can lower the price but keep the quality; sometimes the price is irrelevant.
So how can you make sure your clients don’t wander off and misbehave with the competition?
- Treat your clients like your friends – contact them often and not always about work, shoot the breeze with them, show you appreciate them rather than just tell them, make them laugh, surprise them, listen to what they have to say, be there for them and take an interest in them as people not just as a source of revenue.
- Never become complacent with your quality - treat complaints as a way to improve and not a nuisance to be side-stepped, genuinely ask people what they think (avoid questionnaires), hunt down poor quality and deal with it at source and never accept “it’ll do” as an answer.
- Make time to innovate – if you’re running at 100 mph you can only just manage to keep on top of your BAU let alone come up with great new innovations. Watch, listen, ask and think before gathering some of your key support team together and asking them “so what does the future look like?” Full heads means full diaries and full diaries mean no head-space for creativity.
Simples innit? Treat your clients as you would treat your friends and never become complacent and your client estate will only grow and, as a nice bonus, you’ll get more client referrals than you know what to do with!
Image courtesy of PinkBlue / FreeDigitalPhotos.net