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Reconnecting with your Customers: Start with One a Day

When I attend a conference or workshop I always like to come away with at least one or two ideas that I can implement and explore immediately upon my return to the office.

At one conference, from really what was just an offshoot of the main discussion, the idea I came away with was the danger owners/principals of growing consulting organizations faced with regard to maintaining customer intimacy.  In the early days, owners are personally involved with customers – courting them, winning them, implementing their products and services, supporting those solutions – with the result being that no one knew more about the customer than the owner/consultant.

But often with success comes growth:  additional employees, specialized job functions, more customers and often an incremental distancing of the owner/principal from the pulse and disposition of the customer base.  Without careful consideration, this could potentially lead to a loss of stickiness with the customer.

So I decided to implement the practice of contacting one customer every day – no sales pitch, no asking for anything other than how we were living up to our partnership with them and to thank them for their loyalty.

I ran a customer list.  Based on the location of the customer (time zone) and my schedule, I scheduled time in Outlook everyday to make a call.  I did a little bit of research on each customer, how long they had been with us, what products and services they used, contact, phone and email.  I entered these brief notes into the Outlook alert.

Every day I called.  Most of the time I got voice mail.  I simply rescheduled the call, indicated in my voice mail when I would be calling back and my contact information.

After about two weeks of this, I was finally at a point where I was actually talking to, not just calling, one customer a day.  The results were good.

Customers appreciated the “no agenda” call.  If there was a support or training issue – I went directly to the managers of those departments, explained what I was doing and was able to follow up with the customer that they would be hearing from the top ranking person and when they could expect to hear from them.

But more often, I got success stories.  “Yes, we bought to solve problem A, but with your help, we were able to solve problems in areas B and C.”  This allowed me to recognize individual people in the company who were living examples of our brand and vision.  This was phenomenal – nothing is more appreciated than specific, concrete examples of employee excellence.  We were able to praise the individual, give others an example of how it’s done.

Further, I was able to circle back with happy customers to schedule interviews for customer testimonial/success stories.  In one case I was able to recruit a customer to assist in a web based presentations to customers and prospects.  I was able to glean all sorts of intelligence – what web sites they found interesting, what conferences they were attending, what trends/issues they saw challenging them on the horizon.  All of this enabled me to make better marketing decisions, focus on some key research areas, but most of all, it allowed me to be more intelligent, caring and effective in our service to our customers.

7 Responses to Reconnecting with your Customers: Start with One a Day

  1. Dawn, this is brilliant. It seems like such a no-brainer yet hardly any firm does this stuff regularly. Super important. Thanks for sharing your success stories!

  2. Stan Phelps says:

    Great tip Dawn.
    I recently heard Peter Shankman talk and he advocated a similar practice of Barry Diller. Barry’s net was a little wider as he made a practice of calling everyone in his rolodex. Each morning he would set aside 30 minutes to an hour to call 10 people. No agenda, just a call to check in and see how you were doing? That meant if you were in Barry’s book, you heard from him 2 or 3 times a year.
    I’ve starting this as my New Year’s resolution. We’ll have to compare notes at the end of the quarter.

  3. John Hoyt says:

    Thanks, Dawn, for formalizing the process that I have been thinking about since the holidays! This will be my impetus to start this. The key to this for me is that it is just communication without an agenda and the opportunity to speak with people I originally had a close relationship with.

  4. Ryan Zuk says:

    Way to go Dawn — simple conversations work well when you make the time! And in instances where you get pleasant dialog going with customers, I don’t think it violates your “no agenda” intentions to briefly inquire about a key interest or two. Perhaps, in your success story scenario, you know you’re looking for a certain kind of result/benefit realized by customers and, while they’re offering their stories, simply ask if they’ve experienced this in a quick effort to ID specific customers you may be able to work with, later.

  5. Clark Haley says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Dawn, you are truly “Mad Skizzills”! Oh, wait, I’m banned from using that phrase — YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION!

    This WAS on my list at one point and I let it fall off. It’s back on the list tomorrow, plus I’m going to ask the executive team here to do the same!

  6. Dawn, great ideas. We implemented a customer advocat program internally last year. We took the customer list and divided it among everyone at the office. Every one called their designated customers with the agenda being to find out about how they were doing in this economy and any suggestions how we could improve our services/communications. The customers loved it ! We got some work out of it but that was not the intent. One of my action items is to start calling the long term customers and,as suggested, let them know we appreciate them and find out what is going on in their businesses.

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