What would it be like if you knew exactly how to enhance the relationships you have with your internal and external customers? Improved collaboration, more successful engagements, more fun on the job, and greater financial success would likely result. The truth is, knowing “exactly” how to do this depends on your specific situation and what your specific customers want. But don’t worry – in this article, I’ll share a formula that you can use to think through how to build and maintain growth oriented partnerships with your customers. Here’s the formula:
Customers will love working with you if you:
● Are credible
● Perform well for them
● Are likable and easy to be around
● Maintain appropriate, positive, value-added contact
● Are easy to transact with, having minimal friction
Let’s step through each piece, starting with the parenthesis:
Credibility is “The quality or power of inspiring belief” according to the dictionary. Think of a person that you’ve worked with that had the power of inspiring belief – what were their characteristics? Most likely they included some combination of knowledgeable, honest, and competent. Credible people think ahead and foresee challenges and opportunities before others do. They often have social proof through certification, good ratings, and testimonials. Credible people and organizations consistently deliver. What would you need to do to boost your credibility in your environment? What constraints exist in your organization that challenge credibility? What historical presidents might need to be overcome to rebuild credibility?
Performance. Customers love working with those who exceed their expectations in an efficient and timely way. How do your customers measure your performance? Some key measures include speed, return on investment, throughput, defect rate, response times, accuracy, and others. I think this one is straightforward. What would you need to do to enhance the performance you provide to customers?
Likeability. Likable leaders are fun to be around and put people at ease. They ask questions, listen, empathize, relate, and adapt their style to the varied situations and preferences of those around them. Likable people find commonalities and connect interpersonally on non-work related topics that interest their customers. These people bring the appropriate amounts of “curiosity and vulnerability” without coming across as over the top. Who is someone that you find likable, and what traits do they have that you can bring to your situation?
Contact is shown as a multiplier in the equation. If your organization performs well and is credible and likable, but customers don’t know who you are, there will be barriers to a growth oriented partnership. Have quality, positive, value-added interactions with your customers on a frequent basis. This could take the form of proactively bringing an idea, insight, or solution to a challenge. This could be checking in to see how their day is going, or to ask how their child’s birthday party was. Being in regular contact with your customer in a way that they find as positive and valuable helps to make sure that your customers are thinking about you when they need your services. Being positive and helpful to others is also part of being a good human too, which is important!
But let’s keep it real, mastering positive, value-added contact is harder than it sounds! Introverts like me need to add emphasis to getting in front of customers face to face, and talking about things that are not work related. I’ve seen extroverts stress and overwhelm their customers with smalltalk. Furthermore, B2B or internal barriers might exist that make quality contact challenging. This topic is an art and a science – where do you think you should focus to have more quality interactions with your customers?
Friction is in the denominator of the equation. Some organizations have mastered the above factors, but actually mobilizing work or engaging with their customers is painful. I’ve seen friction arise due to cumbersome or bureaucratic operating policies, procedures, or processes. I opened a new account with one of my favorite banks recently. This bank has good interest rates (performance), they are recognized as a leader in digital servicing (credibility), their people tend to be good to work with at an individual level (likeability), and they do a good job checking in with me to offer solutions that match my need (contact). The challenge I experienced is in the account opening process, where I was transferred between 3 different service representatives, and eventually needed to come into a physical branch to complete the transaction. A great example of where enhancing roles and processes would result in a stronger, longer lasting, and faster growing relationship!
In reviewing the above factors, what conflicts jumped out at you? Is it possible to be too likable for a given situation? Are there trade-offs between performance and friction? Which of these does your business recognize most favorably vs. under-recognize? For some people, optimizing these levers is about building new behaviors or habits. In other cases, dialing these levers up or down can be about prioritizing investment or making tradeoffs. Should you spend time, money, and attention increasing the performance of your offering, or would your efforts be better spent on building credibility or improving the transaction process to reduce friction?
As an executive coach and leadership advisor, I help client service leaders optimize these factors in a practical way considering the constraints in their environment. Consider reaching out to bounce ideas and explore how I can help you to build and maintain growth oriented relationships with your customers! Chris@motion-spark.com
About the author
Chris Musano has worked for 18 years helping leaders and teams to succeed through high stakes change. As a consulting executive leader, he has hired and led more than 500 people across 6 countries, run 8-figure P&Ls, and worked with 10+ fortune 500 companies to drive complex change. Chris is a Certified Executive Coach and entrepreneurial investor that has founded 3 startup businesses. He lives in Charlotte NC, USA and helps clients all over the world to build impact, clarity, and influence in reaching their goals. Consider reaching out! Chris@Motion-Spark.com