The importance of listening to your clients

Jan 18, 2011 by

listen to ME!
Image by Orange_Beard via Flickr

I have been reviewing several new cloud based services with one of my clients recently and it suddenly struck me that we are finding ourselves veering to a particular style of supplier, regardless of the product we are reviewing.  This has shown itself time and again over the last year in the choices that I have made in terms of products for myself and my clients.

The suppliers we are finding ourselves working with are generally new to the market, or at least newcomers in an established field.  This means that they still remember the importance of looking after the customer.

Yes, once again we are talking about customer service.  The reason being is that in the current climate it is more important than ever to listen to what your customers actually want, not just sell them the same old thing.

We have evaluated products that don’t quite do what we need them to do, however, because the companies we have spoken to have been proactive it doesn’t mean that they are no longer being considered.  They have expressed interest in tailoring the services they offer to meet our requirements.  They are prepared to go that extra mile to ensure that as a customer we actually get the product we want and need.

It reminds me a bit of Saville Row, the place to go to get a bespoke suit that fits you in all the right places, rather than going along to the High Street and trying to fit you into an ill fitting suit.  It just isn’t the same is it.

When was the last time you asked your customers what they really wanted from your product or service rather than telling them what you offered?  Have you ever asked them what they want?

Now I appreciate that not every supplier can meet the needs or requests from every client, and that’s fine.  It’s how you handle that client that matters.  Let them know that you have considered their request, and tell them why it’s not possible, be that development time, budget, it’s beyond your capabilities, and if possible suggest to them an alternative or a work around that may help them.

I work with some excellent suppliers, and they key for me, above the products that they offer, is their customer service and attitude to their client base.  They have a two way communication with me. They don’t do a hard sell either.

So instead of telling your customers what you are offering, take time out to ask them what they would really like, after all, it’s free research and development for you!  Establish the two way communication, some suppliers do this by way of forums, others by way of a ‘wish list’ where you can vote for the features you would like to see incorporated, it could just be a regular newsletter letting your clients know what you are planning and asking for feedback.

As corporations get bigger and everything comes down to ‘the computer says no’ as employees are no longer empowered to make decisions and can only react to black and white situations, take a step back, remember why the corner shop was so popular, and go back to good old fashioned basics.

I look forward to hearing how you plan on listening to your clients, and who your most flexible suppliers are.

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