In response to my previous posting Want to get more from your team? Treat them as customers. I wondered what would come from turning this on its head?
So, you’ve worked hard and got your business performing, and you’ve got an ever growing customer base that is buying your products, but what can you do to take your business further and ensure that base becomes loyal and value building? Now is the time to look to your customers as part of your team, and use some of those great things you do to empower your team to empower your customers too.
1. Establish some agreed long term objectives
You spend time with the people who work for you ensuring that there is mutual understanding about what it is they have to achieve. Spending time with your valuable customers to establish longer term goals will help you anticipate demand and understand the changing landscape of your product offering. Invest in understanding their business plans and strategies and discuss what you can do to help them get there. Plan with them to understand what they need when and be proactive. They will love you for it
2. Keep them informed about your business, not just your products
Of course your customers will be interested in new products and services, but that doesn’t necessarily breed loyalty. Chances are that there are others who will provide them as well. To help your customers feel part of your business send them regular news and communications that feels more exclusive. Won an award? Let them know. Tussling with some product decisions? Ask them what they think. Redesigning your sales website? Involve them in beta testing. The deeper the customer considers their relationship with you, the more likely they are to be loyal and responsive to your sales messages.
3. Invest in authentic dialogue, don’t pay lip service.
Have you seen the video where they try and run a pub like a bank (click here if not)? In one section there’s someone standing by the exit trying to get people to give feedback on the way out, ‘Your feedback is important to us!’ she says. Of course, we know that when we hear this on a phone management system nothing could be farther from the truth. Great teams run on authentic dialogue, and feedback is the oil that keeps them running smoothly. Treat your customers as a community and create mechanisms for them to speak to you directly (I remember when Jonathan Warburton shared his personal email on their TV ads and encouraged people to contact him with suggestions and comments), this way they will not only give you great insight into your business, but will feel deeply engaged. If your only feedback mechanism is a comments box on your website, you are missing a trick!
4. Have regular performance reviews
This is a bit of an extension of point 3, but with your team you will sit down on a regular basis and discuss how they are doing, celebrate successes and help to define solutions for any problems. Now, this may not be possible for everyone, but certainly for your most valued customers a regular one to one discussion about how things are going, how close they (and you) are to achieving agreed objectives and some time spent looking at solutions should things not be going as planned will pay dividends. And it’s also likely to increase your referral rate as well.
5. Include them in celebrating your success
I’m sure you will include your team in celebrating success when the business does well, so why not include your customers as well? Besides, it’s your customers that have helped you get there too, by being loyal and spending their money buying what you provide. Consider ways that you can pass on your success; give your most loyal customers an exclusive offer, maybe send personalised thank you cards? Having a celebration party? Invite a few of them along. Whatever it is, make sure they understand the value you place on them as central to your achievements.