As we dust off the last few mince pies and put away the decorations for another year, we look ahead to the New Year with optimism and the determination to ensure that this years’ resolutions last longer than the last piece of Christmas cake that no one wants to eat. Having followed the Christmas tradition of thanking our customers for their business over the last year and wishing them well for the new one ahead, perhaps taking the time to send a card or gift, one of those resolutions may well be to talk to our clients more regularly, think more about how we can better support them and work harder to develop lasting relationships.
At B2B International, we made a conscious effort to look over our list of clients and contacts from the last 12 months and to wish them well for the year ahead, even going so far as to send a variety of festive treats. The cynic in me thought that this may look a little pre-meditated and be received with nothing more than a courteous thank you, however the response was extremely positive. It hadn’t taken long or cost very much to arrange small personalised gifts and send something more than just a card but we had many responses thanking us and presenting an opportunity to speak with clients personally to begin those ever so valuable conversations about the challenges for the year ahead.
As the thank you notes and calls came in, I began to wonder why don’t we and our clients do this more often? We’re certainly not alone in thanking customers in this way and receiving the positive feedback – surely, it’s something we should all do more than once a year!
Whether it’s referred to as Customer Loyalty or Satisfaction, Relationship Management or Customer-Centricity, we regularly advise clients about the need to talk with customers as often as possible and look for those important opportunities to engage outside of the day-to-day routine. Many do a great job of delivering their core service, satisfaction across the customer journey is often high and customers often have no qualms with the overall relationship. But when it comes to overall recommendation or differentiating from competitors, something is often lacking …
That something typically centres less on the rational elements such as delivering on time, having high quality products or clear and consistent invoices that all competent businesses do and instead is frequently driven by the emotional aspects of a relationship. At the basic level this translates to showing customers they are important and that their business is valued but to really create a customer-focussed organisation, we have to go further. The goal should be to establish an understanding of our customers’ business and ultimately provide a service that is tailored to their individual needs or situation, delivers tangible value and helps them address their specific business objectives.
This level of customer-focussed relationship is perhaps a little too much to expect from an annual Christmas card alone and requires time and effort on all parts. However, the first step is talking to customers and creating opportunities to begin those conversations; which as the response to the annual Christmas card or gifts has shown is neither difficult nor costly. So as a New Years’ resolution for 2018, we urge you to look for those opportunities before next December to say thank you to a customer, let them know you appreciate them and do something beyond the day-to-day that makes it clear you want to know more about them.
After all, at this time of year and with the opportunities of the new year ahead, isn’t that the true spirit of customer-centricity?