How to build meaningful customer relationships
AI is all the hype these days but there’s one thing it can never do - replace humans.
Contrary to what you may have been made to believe, building strong customer relationships is not nice to have.
Something you should not spend your time with because it “does not scale”.
Strong customer relationships not only satisfy the need for human companionship but raise the odds of success significantly.
The more customers become actually successful the
higher your retention rate will become
the more expansions and upsells will be bought
the more referrals you will get
Put simply, strong customer relationships play a pivotal role in unlocking efficient, scalable growth.
Because it gives you access to in-depth information about your customers' business.
The better you understand their business model, their processes, culture, etc. the better you understand their problems and why they exist.
As a consequence, you can tailor your services and inputs exactly to your customer's needs. No (more) guessing and no assuming.
And throwing a one-size-fits-all-eat-or-die approach at the customer has not even worked 5 years ago.
The only thing you can accomplish is to fail cost-efficiently if that’s your goal.
There are two ingredients to build strong bonds between you and your customer:
genuinely caring about your customers’ success (intrinsic motivation)
leading by example and offering trust and transparency from your side
Here are 4 formats and opportunities to walk the talk:
1. Kick-off meetings
Start all your new customer engagements with a kick-off meeting.
Use it as an advanced discovery where you go deeper into the information you (hopefully) got from your sales team.
Your goal is to understand their needs.
Their needs = the education, training, and consulting services your customers need to close the gap between where they are now and their desired outcome.
That’s rarely something your sales colleagues can do because they don’t have the same level of insight into working with the customer.
Ask open questions about your customers' business but let them do most of the talking (80/20).
Every customer (and every human being) wants to feel heard.
2. Follow-up meetings
What are your customers doing when you are not in the virtual room?
Are they following your advice? Were they able to implement the planned steps?
Did they run into unexpected obstacles?
Sure you can wait for a month or two and check in if your magic crystal ball suggests there might be something wrong.
The alternative is to schedule regular follow-up meetings to ensure customers are moving forward and react immediately if they’ve left the success path.
3. Customer onboarding
Want to deliver a lasting great first impression?
Don’t force-feed your customers into an onboarding plan.
Share it instead and walk them through the intended steps.
Answer their questions, address their concerns, and adapt the plan if necessary.
Make working together feel like a partnership of equals where both have a saying.
Your QBRs, or however you call them, are not only a strategic asset to ensure customers become successful.
It’s also a great opportunity to deepen your relationships.
But therefore you need to stop running it as a presentation where you are talking about things your customers don’t care about.
Use it as an opportunity to discuss - as intended - previous business results.
Ask your customers for feedback on what works, what does not, and why.
That will not only help you to improve your services and success plans.
Customers will also feel that their feedback matters and is not lost in the ether.
What’s the status of your customer relationships?
Are you merely a random vendor employee or an extension of your customers’ team?