This might sound laughably easy, and if you type the words “customer focus” into any search engine you’ll get a huge number of suggestions and even paid for seminars on how to improve your customer focus, how to ‘maximise’ your customer focus and how to develop a customer focus strategy.
When I started Crystal Clean eight years ago, I was the only employee. My first customers were absolutely crucial to my initial success, and looking back I can now see that I developed a highly customer focused way of working out of necessity. At that stage of my business, losing even a single customer would have been an enormous setback, so I devoted myself to looking after and caring for my clients, doing the best work I was capable of and, importantly, letting them know this was the case.
No matter how much focus you put on your clients, understand their business, align yourself with their aims and objectives, it will be for nothing if your clients don’t feel looked after, cared for and taken seriously as a result.
So many businesses make the mistake of trying to hide or divert attention away from failure, that when customers do finally discover a mistake or error, it creates the perception that your business is not only incompetent, but dishonest and evasive too.
Whenever an issue arises that will affect a customer, good or bad, I want them to hear it from me first, followed in quick succession by the solution or proposal to resolve the problem. I’ve built up my company’s reputation for customer service by keeping focused on what customers need, and what customers need to feel.
Customers need a good service, at the right price, with the right safeguards and service level agreements. But when they think of your business, your customers need to feel valued, looked after, cared about, and they need to feel that they can call on you for anything.
It gets personal, because every business relationship, on some level, relies on two people meeting up and being able to do business, find agreement and compromise on areas of disagreement.
Because no two people are alike, there isn’t a manual for building these personal relationships, but I think it boils down to three main points:
- Reflect your client – if they are very informal and light hearted, try to bring some of that into your relationship with them. Likewise, if they are formal and precise, modify your communications to reflect this.
- Know your client – if you are truly customer focused, you will know what their worries are, what their plans are, and what you can do to help them achieve success.
- Keep talking to your clients, even if you have nothing to report. You can only build successful personal relationships through repeated, frequent communications. Ensure your business process includes regular conversations and reviews. This will make your clients feel valued and looked after, and will alert you to potential issues before they become problems.