At Bsquared we believe in listening to your customers – customers are individuals and they like to be heard. Most people appreciate your taking the time to listen to what they have to say.
Here are a few pointers to what we think most customers want. If you could sanity check how you manage your business-to-business customer relationships, here are the top things we recommend you look at to develop customer engagement and build customer loyalty:
1. Communicate. This sounds simple, and it can be simple, but it isn't always. We often hear about cases where an issue has been resolved but the customer is unaware of its resolution. This is painful to learn, especially if the supplier has taken a great deal of trouble to resolve the problem. If the customer is unaware of this they will still carry the same perception of you.
So communicate. First ensure that your internal systems are working. Who spoke to the customer last? What did they tell you? Is there anything which needs to be done? An organisation which operates in ‘silos’ will find this difficult.
Then communicate externally. Notify the customer when you have made a change. Equally, if you cannot resolve the issue, let them know – and why. If something is going to be late, notify them in good time. Managing expectations may be a cliché but it’s so good for building customer relationships. Even if there are no current problems, speak to the customer from time to time - tell them what is going on internally, what is happening with you and how you might be able to help them.
2. Provide excellent customer service. The ultimate here appears to have a single point of contact, one person who knows the customer by name, cares about them, has established a relationship, understood their needs and will keep them informed. This is exceptionally important and helps enormously with retention. Don't treat the customer as a number, but as a person.
3. Quality is crucial. Quality of product, of systems, of services is clearly of utmost importance and builds customer trust and loyalty. Be flexible, offer creative solutions to customer’s problems but also ensure that any solution is fully tested and functional before launch. Keep the customer informed on a regular basis and you will promote loyalty.
4. Make it easy to do business with you. Customer relationships often fall down on the little things - being able to contact someone, issuing invoices with the wrong details, not being able to order what they want and when. Make it easy for customers to contact you and deal with you. Make it a pleasure rather than an inconvenience.
5. Value for money. You may wonder why this comes last. It is of course of high importance to customers, but if all the other factors are in place, pricing will not necessarily be where you have to compete. Loyal customers will stay for reasons other than your offering the cheapest product or service. They will, however, definitely look elsewhere if the above criteria have failed to be met.
And lastly, promote yourself! So often customers don't know what your latest offering may be or how you have been developing. Customers are individuals and like to be heard. Listening to the voice of your customers will generate many benefits, including keeping your competitive edge.
Here is a simple assessment you can take to check how you manage your own customer relationships.