So much of sales and marketing is understanding what customers really want and need from vendors and suppliers. Many times we feel that in order to obtain loyalty we need to invite customers to play golf, have open houses or entertain them over dinner or at sporting events. While these actions certainly reflect an investment in customer relationships, they do not make the list.
In preparing for this column, I reached out to 35 business-owning members of Vistage and the Women Presidents Organization for input on what they need from their vendors. Their insight speaks volumes and is a good reminder of how to best nurture customer relationships. Here are their top 10 preferences in order of ranking.
Be responsive, honest, trustworthy and transparent
Be available when needed and resolve problems or issues openly and honestly. Respond quickly. Give customers your time and attention when it counts and be thorough — this demonstrates that customers are an important asset to your business and a valued relationship.
Be upfront and tell customers about any problems before they find out or something escalates out of control.
Use proactive and meaningful communication
Communicate often, but respect your customers’ time and don’t barrage them with meaningless communications.
When it is critical to your customers’ business, over-communicate. Stay in touch with customers to show that you are proactively thinking on their behalf and present them with ideas that will improve their business.
Provide quality products or services
Do a great job and do it right. Give customers what they are paying for, deliver value and do it in a timely manner.
Deliver stellar customer service
Provide service, service and more service. Don’t let your customers down, and if something unfortunate does arise, provide alternative solutions with enough time to resolve the situation.
Offer competitive pricing and value
Respect customers’ budgets and provide a fair price that reflects the quality of the product or service. Provide customers with a recognizable value for the expense incurred. Always work to improve the value you are delivering.
Understand customers’ needs and what’s important
Demonstrate to customers that you are a team member and a partner in their business. Value your customers’ interests. Be there for the long term and help your customers make good buying decisions based on their needs, rather than what you have to sell.
Be a solutions partner
Be a partner in creating solutions by being proactive. Your customers want you to do more listening than talking. Take the time to have a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs and come back with solid solutions that demonstrate you have thought beyond the initial discussion to find the best solution.
Do what you say you will do
Customers need to rely on quality, dependable and timely products and services.
Deliver when promised
Deliver products and services when you promise them and follow through. Be forthcoming when you cannot do so.
Listen and demonstrate an effort to be a better vendor
Care about the relationship by listening to your customers’ needs and/or pain. Ask them how you can improve the relationship and respond accordingly or formally tell them if you cannot. Be the better half of the relationship. Be engaged. Be positive. Be results-oriented. ●
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brandpro. For more information, visit www.greencrest.com.