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.