Adding value to customer relationships
Companies used to offer additional services in order to differentiate themselves from their competition. In today’s environment, buyers expect that service as part of the package. They expect your product or service to be delivered in a superior manner. So, businesses today need to find other ways to add value to their products and services in order to keep their clients. They need to differentiate themselves by becoming partners with their clients and customers.
Here are a few things you can do to add value to your customer relationships.
If you learn that your customer is having a recurring problem in some area of their operation, offer to help them explore their options for solutions through brainstorming or focus group sessions. Your salesperson or another person from your company can facilitate the session. The problem may or may not have anything to do with your product or services; your company’s goal here is to partner with the customer to facilitate positive change. In fact, your company’s offer to help is more likely to be accepted if the potential for a sale is remote.
In a brainstorming session, the group should include key people from the client’s organization. It may be helpful to include a few people from your company who might be able to contribute fresh outlooks and workable ideas.
Focus group discussions can be helpful when the client is exploring major changes that require broad acceptance. They enable the client to gather information about people’s attitudes and concerns that can guide them in shaping and positioning the solution. The group discussions often work best when led by an outsider, and you may find that someone in your marketing department has experience with this type of work.
It is crucial that your company be able to provide a skilled facilitator who excels in breathing life into brainstorming exercises and can remain entirely objective during a focus group discussion. Otherwise, you aren’t necessarily bringing anything to the table that your client doesn’t already have.
Your marketing or corporate communications department should produce a newsletter for clients and prospects. The newsletter can contain product and service information in the form of case studies, as well as customer service advisories or a question-and-answer column. To make the newsletter more than a self-serving marketing sheet, it should include small feature pieces that address broad business issues and trends that would interest and inform your customers. Some of your clients might be interested in contributing articles or commentaries.
Many companies conduct customer appreciation programs as a way of “giving something back” to their customers. One type of program involves bringing in a guest speaker – an expert or specialist – to present a topic relevant to your customers’ industry or marketplace. Your company could also host a series of breakfast or lunch seminars on relevant topics such as new legislation or regulation that affects business, advances in technology, etc. With these types of activities you are not only helping your customers improve their business skills or understanding of important issues, but you are also increasing your company’s visibility as a proactive force in the business community.
Use your networking contacts to help your clients. For example, if your salespeople are members of professional or industry associations, encourage them to take clients with them as a guest to the organization functions. If a client has an interest in joining or speaking at one of the associations, your salesperson could make the necessary introductions.