Is Your Customer Also Your Partner?

In today’s B2B world, working with your customer as a partner isn’t just the nice way to do business, it’s the smart way and probably the only way if you want to stay in business.   Some of you may have had the experience when you thought you knew just what the customer needed – you met with their team once and went off to create the product.  Then, on a status call three weeks later, you realize you’re headed down the wrong path – and now you’re three weeks behind.   What happened?

Any number of things could have happened – you didn’t understand as well as you thought you did, the customer changed his mind, the environment changed, etc.  Bottom line, your process didn’t promote a genuine partnership with your customer, and you paid the price.  A kickoff meeting and periodic calls just aren’t enough to ensure a successful, on time launch – or a happy customer. 

In order for your process to yield optimal results (i.e. happy customers), your relationship with your customers can’t be an “us and them” experience – it’s just “us.”  It should be all about the relationship, the team, and the customer’s/aka team’s objective.   The primary message in your every interaction with your customers should be that you are focused on the goal, and your interactions should be frequent to keep everyone on the same page.  For complex launches, we hold daily calls with our customers; they’re not long, dreaded events, but they ensure buy-in from key team members as the project moves forward.   We all know unexpected bumps arise despite the best laid plans, and the most efficient way to get past them is timely input and consensus from the main players.

The other thing we’ve found critical in ensuring the customer feels like we are truly on the same team and have a relationship is to actually have a relationship .  We appreciate our customers, and we take the time to make sure they know how much they are valued.   In many ways the telecom industry is a small world, and we’ve known some of our customers for years.   When an issue arises on their side, our people are among the first call from new and existing customers, and together as a team, we resolve the issue. 

According to Forbes Contributor Larry Myler, “By 2020 the customer experience is predicted to overtake both product and price in distinguishing one firm from another.”  We agree completely, and we know that treating our customers as the partners they are provides us all with the best experience and the best results.