Gauge Your Customers' Experience
Whether you're a small shop or part of a global organization, understanding your customers' businesses from their point of view can radically change the way you manage these relationships.
Putting yourself in your customers' shoes doesn't have to be expensive or difficult. If your customers are local, ask to spend a few hours with them observing their businesses and learning about the challenges they face. Although this is part of the prospecting process, and there's a great deal you can learn from asking the right questions, it often takes a first-hand observation to get a feel for the hurdles your customers must overcome to make their businesses thrive.
If your customers are far away, it's still possible to see things from their perspective. Ask your primary contact to help you arrange interviews with a variety of employees, from human resources to accounting to sales to customer service and so on. Include a mix of junior and senior staff. Spend about an hour on the telephone with each person, letting each one tell you how their business works and how your company can make their job easier. You will be amazed not only by the diversity of the viewpoints, but by the opportunities for relationship building that are uncovered.
Another easy way to gauge what your customers are experiencing is to be your own mystery shopper. Do you know what your customers hear when they call your business? How long are they waiting for service? Are they connected to the person who can best serve them? If you don't know the answers to these questions, spend some time eavesdropping on the incoming calls. Sit with your representatives and experience how each interaction is handled.
If your business is large enough for you to be anonymous, pose as a prospect yourself - ask questions, ask for advice, even place an order. If you've been practicing customer loyalty management, chances are good that you won't find any major flaws. And the experience of being a customer for a day will generate ideas for improving your business processes that will pay off in profits from your loyal customers.