Are you sure you know what your customer needs from you?

Don't be so sure there Mr. Smarty Pants that you know what your talking about.  That is one of the many useful lessons my mom taught me growing up.  

 What do your customers really need from you?  You may think you know the answer but have you asked?  I find it very, very rare that a service or goods supplier begins by first asking what I want out of them, our relationship and/ or whatever service or product they are providing. I find that many people assume they know what others needs are and how to meet them. After all its what they do. In their minds they may be thinking that they have been in this business for many years and have many customers and may even pride themselves and this knowledge and tell prospective clients they should hire them because they do know these things.  While your experience gives you a base of information don't assume you already know what they need.  Start by asking questions and probing for information you can use to meet their needs. Every person is different and all of us have different needs. They may be short handed in a particular area of a company and you may see a way to make sure they get help to bridge a gap making you easier to do business with. let’s say you are talking to a  person who is a one man / women show. Maybe they are a sole proprietor or maybe it’s just that they are a control freak. Maybe they are over their head and need help to stay afloat.   To them opening one more email in a day is a terrible thing.  let’s say you sell products to them and it requires some communication and there are some problems that may be all their fault in reality. However, instead of thinking of it that way, try to come up ideas to make it easy for them.  That's the key, think of ways to make it easier for them, not you.  Maybe instead of sending them emails it would really help them for you to provide a cloud based document folder they can access and you can keep detailed information just for them there. You would never know this if you didn't ask and probe for ways you can meet a need.   Look for creative ways to help them. You want them to think of you as their partner right? Well, be a great partner and figure out what their personally type is and fill in the weaknesses. This is harder than it sounds and requires careful listening.  In the restaurant business a vendor needs intimate knowledge of what is happening in the restaurants. There isn't a cash register at the office and a smart restaurateur’s focus is on his guests. So get in there and find out what's going on. I had a dish machine guy once spend an entire busy night at a unit to help me figure out what was causing a problem we had. He knew what I needed. 


 It isn't enough to ask once what a customer’s needs are. You have to do it on a regular basis.  Make sure to revisit your customers to check specifically on their needs on somewhat regular basis. Assuming you are doing this to begin with you shouldn't need a deep probe all the time.  However things changes and needs change so make a point to ask careful questions. Ask about any and all processes that are related to the services or goods you provide. Maybe you will find out something that you could help save them time by completing on your end. Maybe you will find that a competitor does something a better than you. When you go to this type of meeting don't do this in a social setting or at lunch.  Make sure they know you mean it and want to learn.

 Get feedback on your performance.   Ask for honest, blunt feedback on your performance and that of your company’s associates.  Be honest if there were some mistakes made that could have been handled differently. Suggest solutions for anything you could have done better.  Come prepared with information.

Figuring out how the way your customer wants to communicate not the way you do is what you need to keep in mind.  Everyone does things differently. So your job is figure out how they like to be communicated with.  Here's an idea: Ask them.  If they perceive you as a person trying to help them they will probably tell you.  Maybe they hate being sent multiple emails (this one is me) and would prefer you to summarize all the things you have going on with them together on a regular basis. However, some people may want you to text them at all hours to give them incremental updates. Whatever it is they like figure it out and do it that way.  Point again is do it their way not yours. Recently I had a supplier send me a video clip email attachment giving me a verbal update on things we had going on. There was few things I needed to see and she showed me them too. It was awesome.  I asked about it she said she just uses the camera on her laptop and did it in minutes. Some people are visual and some are not.  There are other aspects to communicating you need to figure out.  Some people want a single source communication. (I admit this is me too usually).  I find it challenging when I get communications from a suppliers associate that I don't know. Or even if I do know them and they don't know my communication preferences. It’s possible to bring others into the mix but do it carefully.   They need all that carefully learned information you have to be ready to go on the front lines with your customers. 

 Ask and you shall receive! amen