Update: Know your customers better than yourself

The focus of my last post (from March 20th), was collecting customer data and how to use that data to drive higher levels of service, customer differentiation and profits for your organization. After posting, I got a lot of feedback both good and bad (that’s OK, I can take it). Most of the “constructive feedback” I received centered on my comment about knowing your best customers and treating them differently than others in your client portfolio. In a show of democratic sentiment, I was surprised at the feedback I received about treating all customers “equally”. As I stated in that post, I disagree. At the risk of creating more email traffic on the subject, here are a few more ideas I have learned that help keep your best customers happy, long-term, and profitable for your organization. Oh,
and keep the feedback coming….

• Don’t “nickel and dime” your best customers. Your most profitable customers have the most
reason to be dissatisfied. The complexity of their engagements and their frequent interactions
result in them having the most to lose. Go out of your way to make them feel that the value they get
exceeds what they pay. And be sure that during your quarterly vendor review cycle, you find a way
to point it out….customers have very short memories.

• Do away with the bureaucratic customer rules. Eliminate rules that are easy for customers to
violate and that are seen as nuisance rules. These rules are to keep the “casual” customer in line
and profitable. They are not for your best customers and actually make them feel taken advantage
of. Again, be sure to highlight the rules they do not have to follow because of the business trust
(read profit volume) they place in your company’s hands. And be sure to subtlety bring it to their
attention…because their memories are short.

• Rely on your good service, not “the contract”. If conversations with your customers begin
or end with “it is in the contract”, you are headed down a dangerous dead end path. I am a firm
believer that most customer engagement contracts are there for the day all hell breaks out in your
relationship. If you (or they) are quoting the contract terms regularly, it’s time to revisit the contract
and fix the problem, before your competitor does. Demonstrate confidence and value in your
solution. This will give your customers good reasons to stick around.