We all know that the lists of customer wants, needs, complaints and requests can be quite long and varied. Over my twelve years of analyzing customer interview data on behalf of our clients, though, it’s apparent that in B2B relationships there is a fairly consistent cluster of common concerns and compliments expressed by customers. Some of the issues are so fundamental to good relationship management that it’s surprising that they’re on the list at all.
When summarizing for our clients the key messages from their VOC interviews with customers, I sometimes take on the role of a composite customer, using my voice to represent the combined voices of their key contacts. In no particular order, here are just some of the things that composite customer might say to a product supplier or service provider:
Be present. The suppliers I value most are here consistently. They find relevant ways to be visible and don’t wait for an invitation or urgent request to show up at our offices, labs, or plants.
Please respond when I call. I know it sounds simple, but waiting for a supplier’s personnel to return my calls or respond to my emails is a surprisingly common occurrence. Not discounting all your efforts to be innovative and offer better quality solutions, you can distinguish yourself by just being the company that responds quicker than others.
When you do call, be helpful. Make sure that you or your co-workers have the appropriate levels of technical knowledge and willingness to help. If you can’t answer my questions or solve my problem that’s fine, just help me find someone who can.
Don’t keep me wondering or wishing. When you’re working on a project with me, or trying to solve a problem for me, please keep me informed of the status. Hearing from you proactively gives me greater confidence that you’re working on the solution, rather than leaving me to wonder if you’ve forgotten me and wishing for an update. Even an update of “no progress” is better than no update at all.
Help me learn. My organization is so lean, and we don’t have the people or the time to stay abreast of all the topics and trends that might affect my business or yours. The supplier that brings me knowledge and helps me apply it to my opportunities and challenges is valued more than those who don’t.
Bring ideas. Don’t just pitch me on your latest offering or newest product. Use your knowledge of my business and my goals to bring me relevant ideas and recommendations for things that could help us.
Remind me of your value. Don’t be afraid to remind me of all the good things you’ve done for my business. When you’ve helped us to reduce costs, avoid problems, increase yields or anything else that is important to us, be proactive about documenting those wins and communicating them to us. Somebody is here every other day claiming that they can do it better, faster, or cheaper – so help us both by reinforcing the decision we made to choose your company over theirs.