A good friend of mine for many years believes as I do in passionate customer service to key customers. Both of us learned our trade working with McDonald’s for The Coca-Cola Company.
Stephen Cobb is still with Coca-Cola and has always been a tenacious and persistent value provider to his clients. He recently wrote an excellent blog about ensuring good stewardship, a subject that is very close to my heart and I am re-posting this article in its entirety. Don’t take your customer for granted. Enjoy.
How many times have you heard “I wish I had told my loved one just how much they meant to me before they passed on. I am sure they knew I cared, but now they are gone, I am not sure they realized just how much I really loved them. If only I could go back in time, I would be sure to let them know”.
The same goes for business. Do we tell our customers how much we appreciate them, and how much they benefit from our partnership before they leave us – for another business partner?
How well do our customers know the value we bring? Do they realize what we have you done for them? How much money have we made them, and the contribution our partnership has brought to their financial and strategic objectives? Because let’s be clear, if we don’t tell them, who will?
People who are in business relationships, even good ones, can take others for granted. This is true in the long-term relationships just as much as new relationships.
We must continually let our customers know just how much value we are creating for them, how much we are focused on their business and their needs, and the specific actions and results we are driving for them.
So make sure we take every opportunity to remind our customers just how valuable we are. And one of the key elements of a strong customer relationship plan is to ensure we have regular, valuable stewardship routines built into our customer engagement plans.
A good stewardship program does the following. It reminds our customer where we agreed our products, services or support would contribute to their business objectives. It recaps what we said we would do, and when we would do it. And it walks through what we actually did, and the results it drove.
Always start with a list of our joint plans. This reminds our customer that we are focused on their business, their needs and the right plans to help them achieve their goals.
We should include a check for of our understanding our customer’s business priorities and core needs, to make sure they haven’t changed, and to show just how focused we are on their needs.
Then recap the planned initiatives we agreed on with our customer. Of course, these mutually agree plans and programs, not our internal selling objectives.
The quickest way to lose a customer is to lose sight of what is important to them, and just list your own objectives as joint objectives.
If you haven’t developed a collaborative and mutually aligned plan with our customer, go back and do that before preparing our stewardship review.
Now outline all the great things we did for our customer this past quarter or year. Highlight the unique value we delivered, the things our competitors couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Show how these delivered on primary objectives our customer has – Revenue and Profit growth, Customer Service improvements, Quality improvements and so on.
We must be specific and link these values directly to the customers own performance metrics and deliverables. If it’s sales, then be sure to use the metric that is relevant to our customer. I work in the beverage industry and so many reviews I participate in, talk about gallons sold, or of cases sold.
But I don’t know of any customer that sells gallons or cases to consumers instead, they sell cups or bottles or cans. So we should use those metrics. And we should always talk about revenues and profits; after all, this is what our customer is really interested in growing.
Our review should also touch on what didn’t get done, and why. This allows us to be open and transparent about the challenges faced, either internally or with customers themselves. Not every program gets activated, not every initiative is executed, so we need to talk about this with our customer because they are already thinking about these things.
And they are likely holding us accountable, even if it’s a holdup or disconnect in their organization. We can then review these missed programs and be clear about what needs to change, and what needs to be done differently to get them completed.
Or we can agree to adjust our plans, even discard and replace them if our customer feels they are no longer required or desired. But be sure to have the discussion, and then we won’t have a black mark next to our relationship.
Finally, recap what we agreed to do going forward, and who will do what and when. This keeps the cycle of value alignment and creation moving forward, ensuring our relationship is seen as critical to our customer’s business objectives.
If we build strong, focused stewardship routines into our customer engagement plans we will never be left wondering why we lost a valued partner or wishing we had told them how much they meant to us before they left for the “other side”. Let them know how much we care, and we will have no regrets.