Customer Relations

by Roisin Murray & Wallace Murray

Perfect the product

Remember

Whether you are selling a product or a service, you are actually selling a relationship.

‘Right first time’ used to be a mantra in Total Quality circles. Maybe it still is. But is it realistic for you?

No?

How long will your most loyal customer keep buying sub-standard products?

The question as to whether a product is sub-standard or good or outstanding can only be answered from the customer’s perspective. In other words, the quality of a product can ultimately only be judged by the end user.

So how do you get the product or service perfect from the customer’s point of view?

You feed back external customer comments through the internal customer chain. That will help people get things right at each stage. Note that the stages go all the way back to the company’s buyers. Let the customer know that you do this. If possible, tell them about any changes made as a result. This gives customers some real evidence that they are cared about, and listened to. That is often all that a ‘complaining’ customer wants.

Feedback also helps people in design or production. They can more easily improve the product if they hear customer comments. That sort of feedback loop also does wonders for customer relations, as customers see changes in the product that are directly attributable to their own feedback.

After sales support

The distinction between products and services is getting blurred these days as many products come with attached after sales service and extended warranties.

Perfecting the after sales service is just as important as perfecting the product. Again, this means perfect from the perspective of the customer.

Do you offer after sales support? Think about how it is offered. How you do it can be more important than what you do.

Below is one customer’s perception of after sales support.

Story

A customer’s tale

I was very happy when I bought my first new Yaris. I had bought a Toyota because I had heard that they were really reliable. So I was a bit surprised when I got a letter recalling my car for checking because a minor problem had been found on a few models. I was concerned about being without my car, but I needn’t have been.

The dealer not only lent me a courtesy car, but imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found a bottle of champagne and ‘thank you’ card in the recalled car when it was returned to me. I am now on my fourth Yaris. I’ve never had another problem, but I am quite sure if I did it would get sorted.

Key tip

A problem put right with style will gain more customer loyalty than if the problem had not arisen in the first place.

Companies often look miserly when putting things right. This is not about cost, it’s about attitude. Thinking about this from the customer’s point of view can really help you to cement relations with them instead of leaving them with a sour taste in the mouth. Take a few minutes to imagine yourself as a customer with a problem. What would really impress you as a way of your supplier cementing relations with you?

Many customers work on the basis that there is no such thing as a problem-free product, so they want to deal with a supplier who will put things right promptly and effectively.