BMJ Stone
EZG Manufacturing
Federated Insurance
Fraco USA, Inc.
Hohmann and Barnard, Inc.
Hydro Mobile, Inc.
iQ Power Tools
Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
Mortar Net Solutions
Non-Stop Scaffolding
Pullman Ermator
Tradesmen's Software, Inc.
September 22, 2003 10:01 AM CDT

Nine Things Your Customers Will Never Tell You


Make a serious mistake and your customer will let you know about it ... fast. Payment errors, quality defects, and other obvious problems will motivate your customer to call you quickly.

But what happens when your customer perceives a less obvious, intangible problem involving your communication style, temperament, or personal behavior? Will your customer call you? Not likely. In fact, if your customer perceives the problem as serious enough, he might even fail to buy from you in the future -- and never tell you why. Worse, even if your customer generally likes the way you do business, he might happen upon an alternative supplier who offers something you don?t, and quickly change his buying habits.

Here, then, are nine things customers will probably never tell you. They can have a profound impact on your sales:

  • You patronize me. I don?t like the oversimplistic way you describe your product. I feel as if you?re talking down to me. Lesson: Always ask your customer whether she wants more or less detail.
  • You don?t keep up with trends. I want to be able to send questions and product queries by e-mail, but I?ve discovered you?re not ?wired.? That makes me think you might not be up on other things as well. Or: You always seem a step behind the latest product developments. Lesson: Each year, identify three of the top business and technological trends in your field, and develop a plan to stay current. Equally important, let your customers know you?re staying current.
  • I?d buy more if you asked me. I have so many needs, but you don't seem to recognize them. Maybe you offer products that would make my life easier, but I have no way of knowing. [Editor?s Note: Here, you may wish to refer to the wide range of products or services your readers sell.] Lesson: Instead of simply describing your products to your customers, ask how you can help them.
  • I don?t like your manners. I don't like the way you try to do two things at once while you're talking to me. Or: You interrupt me when I'm talking to you. Or: Your failure to use formal titles bothers me. Lesson: Mind your manners.
  • Your style upsets me. I don't like the salty language you use in my presence. Or: Things always seem disorganized in your office or shop. I can't help but wonder if you're all that organized. Or: I'm bothered by what I see as a lack of professionalism in your habits. Or: Your procedures appear overly bureaucratic (or not formal enough). And the list could go on and on. Lesson: Watch your customers' interpersonal and professional demeanor. Respect it by watching your demeanor.
  • You?re inconsistent. Ninety percent of the time I know you?ll do exactly what you promised. But it?s the other 10% that I'm never sure about. Lesson: Aim for 100% consistency. If you?re not going to be able to meet the customer?s terms, let her know the minute you realize there might be a problem.
  • You don?t respect my time. I have to wait on the telephone or in person when I want to talk with you. When I leave a message, you don?t call back promptly, and this inconveniences me. Lesson: Save your customer?s time before you save your own.
  • You were rude to my assistant. All she wanted was some simple delivery information. She didn?t deserve the run-around you gave her. Lesson: Treat customers? secretaries and administrative assistants just as you?d treat your customers.
  • I?m talking to the competition all the time. Face it: it?s a dog-eat-dog world out there. I want to save money and time, and get the best deal I can, so it?s only natural that I keep looking for other suppliers of goods and services. Lesson: Ask your customers to provide regular feedback to you.

Bottom line: Listen to anything your customers tell you. But equally important, stay attuned to what they don't tell you. The result: valuable clues that can keep those all-important customer relationships intact for a long time.

About the Author

Richard G. Ensman Jr. is a free-lance writer based in Rochester, N.Y.


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