Many companies today perform a customer survey to understand what customers think about them on a number of parameters. Typically, one of the most important uses is to identify improvement potential in the short and long term, as well as at operational and strategic level.
Another – often more overlooked use – is to use the results of the customer measurement as a concrete tool to create even closer, stronger relationships with the company and relevant decision-makers. Here, we operate at the local level in the company, typically in the form of Key Account Managers or similar.
When did you last (re)visit your customer journey?
Most companies follow a process similar to the one illustrated below, where one of the most important steps is to use the customer's feedback as a starting point for dialogue. In step 2, the Key Account Manager has the important responsibility of using the customer's feedback to start a structured, developmental dialogue on the customer-company relationship.
But what is best practice when it comes to having this dialogue and getting the most out of it?
As Key Account Manager (KAM), strong relationships with your customers is the key to maintaining a good customer experience over time and to growing your organization and business value. We give you five steps that facilitate development of strong customer relationships so you can build long-term, trust-based relationships with your customers.
Do you (also) not get enought out of your customer surveys?
The customer is often a strong and professionally proud individual who demands and expects to be treated like one. That means you need to be proactive and stay abreast of the customer's changing needs at all times. When it's time to schedule the physical meeting, it can be difficult to plan how to take control of the meeting and effectively communicate your ideas. That's why we present below a time-tested approach to doing just that.
The five steps
The process of building strong customer relationships consists of five basic steps. The approach is based on the experience Ennova has acquired over more than a quarter of a century and has been developed and tested in close cooperation with a number our key customers, who are characterized by having very professional KAM organizations.
1. Create empathy for the customer
This step is crucial to success. Here, you will learn about the customer's present situation and the importance of understanding the challenges the customer is facing and what needs they have. Some things you will be able to help with, while others can be out of your control, e.g. organizational challenges.
Make sure to read the customer's feedback carefully and understand everything. If the feedback is negative, you can consider the following:
- What is the root cause of the negative feedback?
- What changes has the company recently undergone?
- Have you or your organization changed anything recently?
- Have you failed to react to changes recently?
The aim is to see the situation from the customer's perspective and in that way anticipate any concerns or issues the customer may raise at the next meeting. Once you have formed a customer picture, you can proceed to the next step in the process.
How to create changes your customers will appreciate
2. Design a manuscript for the customer meeting
Now it's time to convert all your insight and customer knowledge to a manuscript or plan for the meeting. This can involve the following:
- Preparing the overall relationship story with the company based on the annual customer satisfaction survey – what is the main story in the company feedback?
- Identifying the highlights and key insights from the specific customer and preparing answers to expected questions that may arise when reviewing results.
- Thinking about what other individuals the customer may bring to the meeting. For example decision-makers, other managers or staff, other stakeholders, etc.
a. Try to predict how the meeting participants will act and communicate, as well as what feelings they may bring to the meeting.
b. Try to predict what agenda the meeting participants will try to set for the meeting, or what results and outcomes the participants should expect to get out of the meeting.
c. Design a strategy to answer expectations and questions. This can include what you want to correct or improve, new ideas and areas, or future trends you wish to explore.
- Defining that main theme you want to set for the meeting and planning what to cover in this regard:
a. Up to 3 main goals or subgoals you want to achieve
b. Prepare the questions you want to ask to achieve your goals (max. 15 questions total)
c. Prepare the actions you envisage as part of the action plan
- Considering how you can end the meeting in a positive way. The end of the meeting is the customer's last take-away from the meeting, and it is therefore important to end it in a positive way.
The goal of the manuscript is to make sure you can take control of the meeting, get your ideas through and achieve your goals. Depending on the goals/customer, consider inviting your manager or another relevant person to a co-hosted meeting. This can help clear any obstacles you are not authorized to clear, and ultimately allow you to solve these challenges at the meeting rather than spending precious time on it afterwards.
3. Facilitate the meeting based on the manuscript
Take control of the meeting and guide the participants through the agenda. You should stick to the script and, if you have prepared thoroughly, you should be able to control the meeting and achieve your goals. The overall result of the meeting should be to:
- Achieve your goals
- Gain a deeper understanding of the customer and the business
- Get feedback on how to improve the customer relationship (create an action plan)
Remember to summarize the decisions at the end of the meeting – and end the meeting in a positive way.
4. Update the customer information
After the meeting you should have a lot of good notes and hopefully have achieved your goals. Update the customer information and experiences based on your notes, which should at least include the following:
- New insight and learning about the industry
- New insight and learning about the company (current situation and future needs)
- New insight and learning about the customer (current situation and future needs)
- What short-term and long-term actions are required
Think about what insight and knowledge should be shared between your team and your manager. Create a plan for the actions you are responsible for, and decide what to do with the things to be escalated.
Remember to reflect on the new knowledge and experiences from the meeting. Your reflections will help you to continually develop your skills and improve your chances of achieving strategically successful meetings.
The above customer insight and knowledge are naturally for internal use only – do not share them with the customer.
5. Follow up with the customer
Last, but not least, you should email the customer after the meeting to make sure you agree on the following:
- List the agreed decisions
- List the planned actions to be taken
- Potential conditions or areas you need to investigate and get back to the customer on
- Proposal for the next check-up with the customer
By following all or part of the described process in connection with follow-up of the company's strategic customer survey, you will increase your chances of strengthening your customer relationships. The customer has spent time and energy providing feedback and expects it to be used to some end.
By investing in treating the customer's feedback in a serious and professional manner, you are signaling to the customer that you are a competent partner who is interested in developing a long-term and mutually value-adding relationship.
With a professional approach to your customer insights and, not least, to your work with them, you will have the best possible basis for becoming a high-level customer-oriented company. Where is the work with customer insight on your agenda? Are you complete beginners, are you well on your way, or are you Customer Insight Champions?