There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else. - Sam Walton
Any business survives for its stakeholders, driven by stakeholders. But customers fuel the growth engine and are prime reason why any business grows or survives. There is no question how vital customer engagement is for a business. Customer engagement is important for all business be it small startup or decade old enterprises/fortune 100 companies in all industries all over the world.
How customer perceives our business depends on many factors like quality of product/service delivered, brand recognition, positioning of product/company in customer’s perspective. But the matter of fact is the kind of relationship we have with our customers can still play influential role if product/service quality, brand recognition are well received by customers. And this perception can impact current as well as prospects/future business from customers. If a customer is happy with product/service delivery and how s/he is engaged, it will extend more business or pass on referrals. If customer is unhappy with our product/service delivery and how s/he is engaged with us, it will directly or indirectly spread bad word and thus negatively impact the current as well as future business.
Managing good customer relationship can be easy or challenging, depending on how you take it. Let me share what I try to do when I work with existing clients, prospective customers.
As many thought leaders advocate, don’t sell your company or product or services to customers, help them acquire it. Ask your customers how they are doing, what problems they are facing. And then you should do a simple job to listen them well. It is a great opportunity to bring-out their unmet expectations, help them solve their problem and thereby making a way to show your product/service fit to address their business problem/concerns.
At times, customers may not be aware of the exact problem and would only describe symptoms of the problem. In such case, project managers can aptly prompt them to bring-out their exact need and reaffirm with them. When we help customers to identify their need and way to meet/address the need, in my experience, it works really well.
Filling the blanks is fine but don’t be pushy or hard-seller. That's a key to greater customer engagement.
Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want - and a little more. - Sam Walton
Once you have clear idea about customer’s business problem and its expectations of the solution, your job just got little easier. Trust me, it is easier to work with customers who know what they need as compared to those who don’t know what they need; you know it well - Clearly identified problem is easier to solve than vague one :-)
As Gallup research says, customer engagement is vital to customer impact, since it sets the base for partnership, which requires genuine connection with customer. Better engagement will be advantageous to create greater impact.
Now the ball is in your court. As a project manager, if you are able to deliver project that solves customer’s problem even better if what you deliver exceeds its expectations, you just earn brownie points. You earn trust, you earn credibility and you secure future business.
For rewarding customers engagement, as a project manager, always ensure that you deal transparency with your customers. Customers respect vendors who are transparent. Being transparent with customers and its greater involvement means you have ongoing feedback from customers. Getting customers involved throughout the process ensure that he does get unwanted surprises when projects get delivered. Also ongoing feedback means higher chances that project will deliver value to customer. We always recommend our customers to extend project access to their customers through our project management software - ZilicusPM. It just takes away barriers of communication, brings in transparency for you.
There is a popular term coined by Boston Consulting Group ‘CASH COW’ that describes how organization can benefit from better relationship with existing customers. There may be difference in the percentage of expansive business one can garner from existing customers (Cash Cow) but it is still significant.
It is amazing to hear personal interest, hobbies, family background, achievements, and cultural backdrops from customers. Building good customer relationship is of course begins with business interest but the rewards of getting personal with customers are huge. As we speak about business problems with customers, if I get opportunity to hear their personal interest, I make it a point to note it. It helps project managers, to take the business to next level.
When I say next level, I mean customers has willingly shared some personal interest, personal aspirations, personal details, it is up to you, what you do with this information. Every conversation with customer need not be always about contract, project artifacts, and issues.
As I said, I am really amazed how such informal conversation takes away the barriers of business formality or resistance to get involved. I have seen customers come forward, sometimes out of their way to support us, promote us in their own organization or their own network.
Hence as a project manager, you have to build a customer centric culture in your projects and strive for better relationship with customers.
. http://www.mobilemarketingwatch.com .
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