Five Key Customer Processes
The processes to “Know Your Customer” are few but vital. They are:
1) Identify your key customers.
2) Talk to them and learn what they expect of you.
3) Measure your performance.
4) Exceed their expectations.
5) If you fail, recover quickly and strongly.
Talking is Tough!
Once identified, you and your team should begin developing a lasting relationship with each key customer. There are many ways to do that, both formal and informal. The primary way to begin, which is a blinding flash of the obvious once understood, but not always appreciated initially, is to have at least one formal customer meeting with each key customer. The Biz Bucks Guy led an internal consulting team which facilitated over 250 customer meetings. Here are some suggestions based on those experiences.
A. Make a formal request for a meeting. Explain your objectives and agenda.
B. Prepare your staff. Some may be reticent or flat-out scared. It can be a sweaty proposition for some to meet their customers face to face. Admit to them that there are four kinds of customer meetings and only one is desirable:
War – hostilities could break out and improvement of relationship would be delayed significantly.
Advertisement – the team makes a presentation about their charter and there is no real feedback, only passive interest. Everyone leaves wondering why they had to meet.
Love-In – both your team and the customer representatives express appreciation to each other and no real improvements get discussed.
A “4F” Meeting – The ideal customer meeting where Frank, Friendly, & Forthright Feedback is obtained.
C. Determine if an objective facilitator is necessary. You will sense the answer to that while preparing your team.
D. At the meeting:
Review your draft charter, as discussed in Chapter 4. Tell the customers that you intend to revise the charter based on their input from this customer meeting.
After reviewing your draft charter, focus on the needs of the customer. Revise those parts of the charter accordingly.
Always ask if there is any work you do for them that could be simplified or eliminated.
The vast majority of customer meetings turn out as positive “4F” meetings. It is amazing how many frontline employees do not know the people they serve. Just getting to place the face with the voice or the email writer can be a “wow” for many.
The Case of the Cocky Customer Service Reps
One team was very “creative” in rebelling against the notion of meeting with their customers. Their customers were real, external, bill paying customers of the company’s services. These team members were customer service reps or CSRs. The CSRs claimed, “We are all so experienced in serving our customers that it would be a waste of time to have a special meeting.” They all had twenty-five or more years in the same general position.
In preparing for the meeting, the CSRs wrote a department charter and listed the expectations of their customers, at least as the CSRs understood them. With the “encouragement” of their VP, they reluctantly set up three customer meetings.
In each of the three meetings, the customers were perfectly clear on what their primary expectation was. It was the same item from each customer. Interestingly, that expectation could not be found on the draft charter. More interestingly, the customers maintained the company was not doing a good job of meeting this expectation.
What was it? The customers did not want to call the company and get shoveled around from person to person to get an answer. They wanted someone to advocate for them and help them get the right person quickly and stay with them until this issue was resolved.
The charter was revised. Training proceeded. Performance improved. If you don’t take time to communicate with your lifeblood – the real customers, sometimes you have one year of experience, twenty-five times.
This chapter from Leadership for the Recovering Quantoid by Bob “The Biz Bucks Guy” Llewellyn deals with mostly internal customers. While not always the case, most quantoids will gravitate to leadership positions in functions that serve internally. Nonetheless, the principles in this chapter will apply to external customer situations, as well. You can pick up a copy of Leadership for the Recovering Quantoid HERE.