The relational excellence on a daily basis: 7 key attitudes to adopt
What do customers of a supplier actually expect? The delivery of a product or service, of quality, at the agreed price and within the agreed deadlines…in other words, the scope of the contract between the customer and the company. Certainly, but experience shows that customers expectations are also expressed in another area, a more personal one, that affects the relational domain…
Most companies have already made this observation. Some deals escape them although their sales proposal was more adapted to the submitted specifications, according to the prospect himself. Some customers, with whom they thought the relationship to be well-established, leave them from one day to the next for a competitor, without any objective contractual reason.
Studies confirm it: “70% of commercial relationship break-ups are due to a lack of consideration perceived by the B2B customer”(2008 WHY Consulting study); “72% of consumers are ready to pay more for a better customer service” (2014 IPSOS study for the National Institute of Customer Relationship (Institut National de la Relation Client))
Companies have become aware of this and, increasingly, position customer relationship as one of their strategic priorities. Beside extensive programmes of change which results can often be seen in the medium to long term, it is interesting to remind the fundamentals of the customer relationship to be implemented on a daily basis for an immediate positive effect on the customers perception:
1 – ATTENTIVENESS
The first required quality to engage in a constructive exchange with a prospect or customer: being able to listen to him, being attentive to his request, his opinion, his criticism… BEFORE formulating any proposal or response. Basic need of any interpersonal relationship, feeling listened to and understood by a supplier is essential for the customer.
2 – EASE
The customer wishes for the relationship with his customer to be as smooth as possible. Whether it is to a set a meeting date, place an order, make a claim,… and whichever the chosen channel, the customer must be able to reach his contact person easily who can take care of his request quickly and efficiently. Making life easy for his customer and making him save time is the second quality required of a supplier.
3 – ANTICIPATION
Although is it still difficult for some companies to communicate on the challenges they can encounter to honour a contract, it is important to inform the customer to allow him to get organised and to limit the impact on his own activity. The customer values transparency from his supplier and appreciates his anticipation. He will often be more understanding and cooperative in the search of a common solution.
4 – HUMILITY
To err is human and nobody is unerring, both the supplier and the customer. To establish and maintain a relationship of trust, it is essential that both parties are aware that they can make mistakes and are ready to recognize them. Humility is the fourth key attitude to adopt by the company’s representatives towards their customers.
5 – FLEXIBILITY
If the contract signed between a supplier and his customer necessarily implies the compliance from both parties of their obligations, the customer expects his supplier to be able to waive certain rules and procedures to do him a favour. The rigidity of the supplier – his “entrenchment behind the contract”, would be destructive. Instead, demonstrate some form of flexibility and suppleness when possible as it strengthens the relationship of trust between the customer and its supplier.
6 – CONSIDERATION
Showing consideration to a customer starts when welcoming him, whether it is physically or by phone. This universal need for recognition is exacerbated in a customer / supplier relationship, because the customer has the feeling, oblivious or not, to provide work to his supplier. Developing friendly relationships, personalising communications with his customer as well as displaying simplicity and sincerity contribute to meet his need for recognition.
7 – PROACTIVITY
How can the supplier increase and enhance interactions with his customer beyond the contractual relationship? By taking initiatives, by spontaneously sharing targeted information and solutions to its own challenges (regulatory monitoring, presenting a more beneficial offer, achievements of other customers, …). Proactivity is a strong lever to strengthen the trust of the customer and put the relationship on a long-term footing…until the emergence of a true partnership.
If you wish to deepen this topic, refer to the publication ‘Make a success of the customer relationship’ (“Réussir sa relation client”) by Serge Rouvière, President at WHY Consulting (Editions Dunod – 2010)