One of the core values that make up our agency name at CREW is “Relationships”. If you’re a business-to-business organization or service company, relationships are especially paramount to your success. I would argue they’re almost more important than the quality of the service. A strong relationship will overlook wrongs, work with you when times are tough, and refer you more often. Whenever a customer or client leaves your company for a competitor, it almost always follows a relationship issue.
This may sound nice and it’s easy to talk about relationships but it’s often far more difficult to put into practice – especially when time is a scarce resource. You can’t delegate relationship building so the key is making the most of the time you spend with your customers. It doesn’t have to be long but it absolutely needs to be meaningful.
I was with my friend Brian the other day and he mentioned these three questions that the CEO of Canada’s second largest contractor has used to build his company. Next time you’re talking with a customer, ask these questions and see what the results are.
1. How are we doing?
Simply asking for feedback and constructive input from customers shows humility and a willingness to serve and learn. It places the burden of relationship two ways and shows an openness to respond. Social Media is a great way to hear unsolicited feedback from customers, especially in larger business-to-consumer industries. It still represents a great opportunity to listen and respond and form a relationship.
2. Where can we improve?
Be prepared to act on suggestions for improvement or this becomes merely lip service in the eyes of your customer. Every business and employee can improve and there is no better way to learn than from the people willing to pay you for your products and services.
3. How are our people working together?
This question brings a higher level of purpose between leaders. It’s where synergy and hopefully competitive advantage between suppliers/supply chain partners emerge from. The more people are interacting with each other for the benefit of the organization, the deeper the relationship will go. It can also open up the idea that teams working together are important and that you both, as leaders, have the ability to influence those relationships as well.
These questions are a great start to stronger and a more meaningful connection with your customers. It’s better to invest in the relationships you have because if they don’t turn out it’s too late to go back. A round or two of golf doesn’t hurt either.
Have a great day!