It is not the same relation that I will build if I meet my customer once every year than once every month. It is important to create a good relationship if I want to improve the service, even if all SLAs are 100%, there is always something to do better. Collecting data to analyze what to improve, it is a good starting point but it is not enough. A meeting with the customer is a must to know their expectation because it is an important factor to take in account for the improvement.
Consequently, by improving the relationship, your customer will be more prone to sign a contract of a new service with you. It doesn’t mean that it is a full guarantee but it is closer to 100% than 0%.Using email is a good tool to build a relationship but not to build a trusty one because it is dehumanized but it is a tool to take in account to forge it.
For instance, in one of my experiences, one of my customers contracted us to deliver an IT service only for specific countries and the other countries were with another provider meaning that my company was in competition. Since each company did a monthly meeting for the results, I need to do something more, in order to create a better relationship and by this way, to build a good trust relationship.
First thing I do when I am starting in a new company, it is to schedule my first meeting with my customer, the day should be between 1 and 2 months, the sooner, the better but not before to review internally the service and the processes. In my invitation email, I will put the different topics that I would like to discuss and I will invite my customer to do the same. Why ? Imagine that you are the customer and you receive an email just saying “I would like to talk with you about your service”. Would you think the same thing if you receive a detailed email saying “I would like to talk with you about your service, particularly in those following topics…”.
The first impression is very important, it will show that I did my homework and most importantly, I am already very involved. If it is possible, do a face to face meeting and try to avoid a skype one as in the life, you will have more empathy with someone that you will meet physically than in virtual.
In general, the meeting is divided in 2 phases:
- The negotiation. It is a service talk (not a business talk) about new SLA, process to change, what to improve, etc.
- The conversation. It is a casual talk about the life that may involve personal topics like how is it to work for, do you like to travel, married or not, etc.
A business talk is more about the contract that usually occurs few months before its end so I will skip it because it is not the focus of this article. The behavior is important to build this trusty relationship so be honest and frank. Don’t doubt to say “no” if you can’t implement a process or “let me check” if you need to study it. In one of my experiences, my customer told me that I was the first one to say “no”, the others managers before say “yes” to everything but nothing happen so don’t give hope to your customers for something impossible.
Normally, there is already a meeting scheduled each month to talk about results and issues. In this case, I will schedule another meeting to talk about the service and improvements that can occur once every 2 or 3 months and it will last about 1 hour. I don’t mix them except if there is no choice because the purpose is not the same and most importantly, the way to deal is different. The first one is like “fighting” (the quality for this month is bad, why ? the day 3 the SLA is below 85%, why ? etc.) and the second one is like “understanding” (what we can do to avoid, what you can offer for a new service, etc.).
I will also do those following actions to build a stronger and a trusted relationship:
- Share the public newsletter of my company. It is a good and simple way to maintain a constant contact without a lot of efforts but first, I will ask if they would like to receive it because I don’t want to spam them.
- Communicate new services of my company that may interest the customer. I will send an email then call them 1 day after to be sure that they receive it and to answer to any questions.
- Schedule an activity. It can be a lunch, a dinner, a karting, a bowling, etc. This one is tricky because it will depend on the budget but no matter what, it is mandatory that the customer should participate. If they can’t because they are in another country, share pictures and videos.
- Ask goodies. This one has a double purpose, to motivate your team and to make your customer proud of them. Indeed, your team will be happy to have a mug for instance and for the customer, if they come to visit you, to see members have it on their table, it will create a kind of good family feeling. The best is a t-shirt !!!
- Send a greeting email for the new year. I don’t send a simple greeting card or the typical greeting words. I always include some extra words to thank you them to trust my company, a resume of the service with relevant good data showing yearly results (not monthly ones) and that the quality will be better next year. Of course, based on the circumstances, it should be adapted. For instance, if one of my customers will end the contract, I will put something different that include something like “I hope to have you back”.
- Send a greeting email for special events. For instance, the birth of a baby, a happy birthday, a sorry for a death, etc.
Those actions will demark me from my competitors because I am doing everything to create and to build an excellent, strong and trusty relationship with my customers so I can keep a partnership in long term and to win easier a contract for a new service but I keep in mind that in the business, the price is on the top of everything.