Does Silence mean success?
By Ibby Smith Stofer
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there, does it make a sound?
If your customer is silent does that mean you were successful or they are satisfied? Do you ever wonder what your customers say about you? How do they feel about doing business with you? Is it a necessity or a benefit? How do you know? What is the reality of your customers’ opinions of your firm, your representatives, or your company?
If we are doing well financially we get comfortable and often assume that our customers love doing business with us. But is that reality? Sometimes they may feel less than satisfied with us, and we have no idea. Just because they don’t speak up, doesn’t necessarily indicate satisfaction, or for that matter dissatisfaction.
In troubled economic times keeping customers is such a high priority to business success, but often we move along without knowing the reality of customer opinion. Will they give us more opportunity? What other projects could we work with them on? Or do they want us to simply stay away from them until the end of the contract.
These are troubling thoughts but unfortunately they are also a reality of doing business in the 21st century. Does your company need a Customer Relationship Management System? Wow, how does a small business afford those? Are there alternatives we can do on our own? Whatever business you are in from healthcare to manufacturing to service, knowing the reality of your customers’ view of you and your company is not a to do, it is a must do.
Each year is a great opportunity for each of us to take the time and make the commitment to understanding how we are doing and then being able to strengthen the positive and improve on our weaknesses. If you are ready, here are some steps to get you started.
Look at your customer base and see who has multiple relationships with you. Have they done business with you on a number of occasions? Is there a common person with whom you have done that business? This is a customer you want to secure and understand. Maybe it is time for senior level to make contact with them. A simple thank you for your business call can take you into a very productive discussion.
What of the others? Those who were one-shot wonders? You know they use similar services. Repeat business is not just the responsibility of the sales organization. It is vital that each employee is committed to the customer experience. We need to find out what we could do to expand our relationships and why we have not developed a stronger working relationship.
To do that a humble approach will serve us well. Perhaps starting off with something like: “In reviewing our records we see that we did business several years ago, but we have not reconnected to help you with your challenges. Can you tell me what we did well and where we could have improved our service to you?” Or perhaps this approach: “We here at Med One feel the loss of doing business with your organization. We want to know what we can do to earn your business again.”
Be prepared to know that if a customer gives you either good or bad feedback and assessments, you owe them something in return. You owe them an appreciation and a reply as to how you will take their feedback and change those things that need to change in order to meet their needs. Often we focus solely on our needs and desires as a business, we miss that we are only in business because our customers chose to do business with us.
But what are the customers’ responsibilities? Is it okay to simply say, “We will never do business with them again!” Should they tell the owners or executives that they have a serious issue in meeting the customer’s needs? While it would certainly be ideal if that honest dialogue occurred on a routine basis, the reality is that the customer has choices and it is often easier to simply wait it out and choose not to do business with us again. OUCH! But it happens all the time.
As a reminder, customers value being considered important to us. They may have the best relationship with our representatives and that may be enough to secure your business from a competitive threat. Strengthen that with an executive relationship and you have double security and trusted resources that can aid you in your desire to improve and expand your business with not only them, but also other customers.
And remember, this should be an ongoing formal process, not an annual event only in desperate times. Linking your entire staff to customer satisfaction strengthens your customer loyalty, your team’s commitment to excel at exceeding customer expectations, and your company’s future. Enjoy and listen well to feedback and you may learn more than you would ever have anticipated.