(below is an excerpt from a Group Coaching Session where I spoke to a group of 15 sales leaders about the Voice of the Customer)
Since I am a customer, and have customers I have so many fun stories to share. However, I don’t want to bore you with just my stories. To add some dimension to the conversation, I reached out to some of my customers to share their voices as well.
I asked them 3 questions:
What makes a good vendor?
What makes a bad vendor?
What keeps you up at night about your conference?
My clients weren’t that surprised about the questions because I ask them these questions when I first start working with them. However, in asking them these questions, I realized that their answers were much different today than they were 10 years ago, 2 years ago or the day we started working together. Their voices had changed. Their businesses had changed. Their needs had changed. This was a really good reminder for me to keep asking my customers these questions. These types of questions are the keys to the kingdom. A customer is telling you what they want, what they don’t want and what is worrying them. All you have to do is listen and take action. This removes the secrets and wondering of what it will take to earn their business. They are telling you--and you can use the information to not only earn their business but establish value and keep earning it over and over again. Here are the results of my mini focus group:
What makes a good vendor?
Someone that “gets me”
Quality customer service
Knows that I am a non-profit and on a budget. I don’t expect free, but do expect fair
Someone that treats me and their vendor counterparts the way I treat them. --with respect
Be of Service
Always adding value, knows the business
Below are exact words from the clients surveyed:
“A good vendor listens, not the kind of listening that requires one to say nothing until it’s your turn to speak but the kind that hears beyond the conversation. “
Let’s chew on that for a minute--can you think of an example of a time when you listened to a customer so hard that you heard beyond the conversation and delivered stellar service?
“A good vendor is someone who is consistent with response times, openly and promptly shares challenges, and follows up after the service.” Can you think of a time where your response time or follow through helped you keep the business or secure the business?
Now, onto the bad vendors. What makes a bad vendor?
Makes my job harder
Pushing their own agenda
Inconsistency--great job one time and then bad job another time.
If a mistake happens, saying I am sorry or not do anything to recovery
Unforeseen fees not disclosed
Someone who is rude to other vendors, my team, presenters
No follow through
Customer Voice: “If a vendor does something to break my trust, I will never work with that company again. I usually send a strongly worded letter to them and cc their supervisor or CEO.”
That’s pretty intense right? These people are so busy but they are OK to make time to send a nasty gram? It’s because service matters to them.
Customer Voice: “I don’t want to do the math if you’re supposed to do the math. Don’t make me do math”
This is funny but you would be shocked how frequently I see this. People submitting proposals and contracts to me where the numbers don’t add up, where the percentages and dates are wrong, or where they make me pull from 3 different emails to get one answer. Whatever you can do to make your clients’ job easier, DO IT DO IT DO IT.
Can you think of a time where you turned a client around after they had a bad experience with someone in your industry that did the exact same thing? How can you build on that for all your customers?
Last question from the voice of customers:
What keeps you up at night about your meeting?
Hoping all the pieces and moving parts pull together.
Finding new ways to keep my internal customers happy
Building on being better than last year
Something not going as planned because of poor communication. I can feel it.
Voice of Customer:
“I want to know the good and the bad. I wrap honesty in with communication. Tell me the real deal and I can figure out how to make it work but I want to know.”
A Quick Activity:
In my house growing up we had a plethora of index cards. My mom used them to make her grocery list. My dad carried them around in his front pocket--and still does with random house projects listed. To this day, I still have index cards pinned up to my bulletin board in my office. Now that we’ve talked about the Voice of the Customer, let’s put it into practice.
What are 3 actions you can take in the next 6 months that help you be a good vendor? Think about what you’re currently doing, think about the voice of the customer, is there anything else you can do? Write them down on an index card and post them in your office. Share them with me, I want to see: firstname.lastname@example.org If you email them to me and the date you want them done, I will follow up with you along the way to see if you’re on track.
Our voice isn’t always our customer’s voice. Doing this exercise was a great reminder to me to always be asking my customers the same questions over the years. Their minds may change. Their business may change. Whichever the case, understanding the voice of your customer is an awesome way to be the most valuable vendor you possibly can be.