What kind of relationship do you have with your customers? Relationships are, by their very nature, fluid and changeable which means making this assessment can sometimes be a tricky business. Having said that, it’s usually possible to categorise most customers/vendors in three distinct boxes: ‘negative’, ‘positive’ or ‘superb’. In the rare case that your customer relationship is most accurately defined by the first description, then it’s highly probable you have bigger problems than it’s possible to address here. But what if you fit in with either of the other two boxes? Perhaps more importantly, what if you have ambitions to moving your relationship status from the box marked ‘positive’ to the one marked ‘superb’?
It’s easy to underestimate the impact relationships can have on your organisation’s bottom line. For many, relationships are an intangible, unquantifiable consideration, and one that, because it cannot be seen on a balance sheet or an organisational chart, can be easily ignored. The truth of the matter is that without robust, sustainable business relationships underpinning all of the day-to-day, organisations would see a notable downward shift in their revenues. Furthermore, it’s becoming easier than ever to correlate those businesses that place greater emphasis on building these relationships with those who have the healthiest bottom lines when it comes to profitability.
Despite this, it’s clear that those who can classify their customer relationships as ‘superb’ are still in the minority, and the suspicion remains that most would instead opt for the box marked ‘positive’. Let’s be clear about this – there’s nothing wrong with having a relationship with your customer that is positive, as long as you are happy to report moderate success, and average profits. Where true business value lies is in those who are able to convert these relationships and truly go above and beyond to ensure that they are ‘superb’.
So how can this be achieved? First of all, it has to be, above everything else, genuine. There’s still no better way to measure a relationship than a smile, and there’s no doubt that those who work hard to improve and grow customer satisfaction will see the fruits of their labours? In terms of improved profits and revenues. Secondly, relationships can be built through consistency and stability. If your customer tells you that they value something you do, make sure you continue to do it at the same level every single time.
However, by far the most important way to strengthen these relationships is to build them by going above and beyond the narrow restrictions of your contract. Of course, it’s easy to point at agreed deliverables and adhere to these and nothing else, but the truly successful organisations are those who are prepared to go above and beyond the contract. There are a number of ways to achieve this, including offering customers greater flexibility in terms of time or resources, or even by investing resources in providing additional activity that isn’t included in an SLA.
Once you are able to go the extra mile in terms of delivery, satisfaction and performance, you’ll find that your organisation is able to earn the most valuable commodity of all: trust. If your customers believe that you will move heaven and earth to help them, it demonstrates that your relationship is strong enough to ensure that they will do the same to stay with you. What’s more, it may even persuade a few others to come knocking on your door. It just goes to show that, when all’s said and done, turning a ‘positive’ customer relationship into a ‘superb’ one can have a significant impact on all concerned!