Here are six ways to start turning your customers into your company’s biggest fans.
No one wants to lose customers. In fact, most companies want their customers to be fiercely loyal. The trick is, how can distributors make this happen in a world where there’s more competition than ever, more buying options, ongoing price wars, and ever-changing customer preference and demands?
According to Sandy Rogers, a Franklin Covey Global Loyalty practice leader and co-author of the upcoming book Fierce Loyalty: Cracking the Code To Customer Devotion, says the goal is turning your customers into “super fans” who not only patronize your business, but who also spread the good word with everyone around them.
“Regardless of whether a competitor is offering a discount or a better deal, all companies want the customers they’ve been working with—or, even the new ones that are trying them for the first time,” says Rogers, “to walk away feeling like, ‘Wow, these guys are amazing. They are easy to work with and they care about me. Why would I give my business to anyone else?’”
Making that happen in today’s business world isn’t always easy, but it can be done. Here are six things you can start doing today to stop your customers from leaving:
- Put the human touch back into the process. We’ve all grown accustomed to using electronic means of communication, but the human factor still counts when it comes to customer service. “Technology may make ‘price shopping’ easier,” says Rogers, “but in many cases, there’s no substitute for human interaction.” Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, schedule an in-person meeting, or even just drop by the job site to see how work is progressing. These face-to-face interactions can serve as the foundation for relationships that would be next-to-impossible to form (and cultivate) in the online/digital world.
- Help customers be better at their own jobs. “When they don’t get that, they default to price, selection, and free shipping as selection criteria,” says Ed Marsh, an international business consultant and founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors. The good news is that companies that do deliver the insights and information continue to thrive. “Electrical distributors have a choice,” says Marsh. “They can be a source that pulls large orders together and delivers them to a job site. They can do takeoffs to help contractors deliver on time to avoid holding the job up and provide competitive pricing. Those are table stakes.” The distributor that takes those tables stakes a step further by, say, helping the architect, the contractor, the tenant, and the owner improve the outcomes that are important to each of them (e.g., design and functionality, efficiency, the productivity of workers, and reduced operating cost respectively), becomes the valued expert. “They could become experts in smart building technology, in hiring laborers in a tight labor market, in warehouse and workspace lighting for productivity, and in net zero construction,” says Marsh, who admits that making that switch is difficult, and that it requires a willingness and ability to step back and look at everything you do from a very different perspective—that of the buyer.
- Show them that you’re empathic, responsible, and generous. As the three principles that guide strong relationships, empathy, responsibility, and generosity should be weaved into everything your distributorship does. When your outside sales reps or technicians can put themselves into their customers’ shoes (i.e., empathy), they’re essentially telling those customers that they care about and support them. “These genuine human connections help customers understand that you want to do a good job for them,” says Rogers, “and that you’ll follow up to make sure it was done right. And if it wasn’t done right, you’ll make it right (i.e., responsibility) and surprise them with little extras (generosity).”
- Get the entire organization involved and onboard. It’s not enough to train the customer service team on the fine points of customer retention, or the outside sales force on how to increase the amount of face time that they have with clients. To be truly effective, a customer retention strategy has to include the entire organization. “Unless you are out there competing solely on price, there’s really no substitute for making sure everyone is involved in the process,” says Rogers, “including your salespeople, your service technicians, your IT team, and your accounting department. Everyone should be living and breathing the customer loyalty principles that you set forth.”
- Dig down deeper to uncover the compelling issues that drive your customers…and their customers. That understanding has to be flexible and deep, says Marsh, noting that an electrical distributor would never know as well as the building owner how to obtain leveraged financing for development, for instance. However, the same distributor can understand, share, educate, and suggest ways that the electrical operation could reduce costs and increase the attractiveness and flexibility of the space for tenants. “In other words,” says Marsh, “the distributor understands how to make the owner more money by constructing a better building.”
- Stop thinking about how to “sell” and start thinking about how to “market.” Look closely at how buyers buy, knowing that in many cases the conversations you’ll have with buyers are the same ones that tend to reinforce incorrect ideas and assumptions. “Buyers have been trained to expect that their conversation with the distributor is supposed to be about price and lead time,” says Marsh. “That starts a vicious, reinforcing cycle that distributors have to break.” In many cases, it takes an innovative idea to break that cycle (e.g., do your customers want to know which electrical components will be the first to be 3D-printed? Or, are they impacted by a specific new law or regulation?). You can use this knowledge to create a marketing approach that goes well beyond price, and that established your distributorship as the de facto expert in one or more areas of specific interest to your customers.
“Be a resource that helps someone run their businesses and/or do their jobs,” says Marsh, “and you’ll establish your credibility as someone who is knowledgeable in the industry, rather than just another source to buy stock from.”Tagged with best practices