The Importance of Customer Relationships

Two recent experiences that I had with companies that I use reminded me like the preferable bucket of ice cold water in the face of the importance of customer relationships.  What should I say, a customer service ethos or culture or set of values that everyone can live with?

Most B2B and B2C have jumped on the tools and tricks on the web front end to make it super easy to be contacted – which will probably soon crest into the ridiculous as everyone will then have multiple options – buttons, chatbots, phone, text, you name it.

But if you are not responsive at the other end, then you have probably almost set yourself a bigger problem of expectation from the customer service standpoint?  If I push the button, I expect to hear from you.  Also, add to the fact that in this new business paradigm, if I’m a customer then I expect you to care about me.  Maybe 10 years ago that was too much to ask but it is increasingly the relationship customers (both B2B and B2C) want and expect to have with suppliers.

My two most recent experiences seem to suggest there is still a significant gap out there between customer expectation and the level of service that is actually given.

Take my first example – Recently, I sent an email to a salesperson with a supplier I use which bounced without a forwarding address at the company, they had no other contact information. So I sent a form through the platform that went nowhere. In desperation, I put in a help desk ticket to get someone at the company to talk to me about actually using more of their services and developing larger things on their platform. I’m not a huge company yet but shouldn’t all of your customers get the same level of responsiveness and respect? I finally had to find the sales manager on LinkedIn and send him an Inmail.  Oh, the irony.

My second experience was with a much larger Company, delivering solutions at scale. I was trying to purchase their cloud-based services online after a trial – and the upgrade screen kept hanging, the purchase wouldn’t go through. Now with current cybersecurity fears and other financial concerns, the payment screen is not where your users want to experience a problem!

As this was on a weekend (I am start up and work seven days a week right now!) I didn’t expect to hear back till Monday but had I heard on the weekend you would have had me at ‘hello’. Anyway, Monday came and went, Tuesday came and went and I heard nada back.  So by Wednesday I was frustrated and decided just to try the payment screen again and miraculously it worked.

Thursday morning I finally hear back from the company – 4 business days and 2 non-business days later – saying that it looks like I have upgraded and is there anything else they can help with? I had to laugh.

There was no acknowledgement of the pain that they might have caused a startup by not being able to access their services for three or four days, no acknowledgement if there was a technical issue that had been fixed, and the most important psychological factor that you want to develop with your customers is trust right?  They didn’t bother to even thank me for my business.

My experiences made me think long and hard.

I have a personal philosophy that I have brought with me throughout my career and all my businesses including my most recent Company startup venture, the Cybermaniacs – that the relationship and customer value is always way more important than the short-term gain.  This is something that I have always stayed true to even when it was at times to the detriment of my career or any financial outcomes.

At Cybermaniacs, we are already spending (probably too much!) time on putting a culture in place NOW only 3 months off the ground and still in Beta, to be: personal, responsive, innovative, creative, warm, engaging and caring of the customer relationships that we have. I don’t think you can ever be so big as a Company that it’s OK to let things slip through the cracks (hello telephone providers and retailers and insurance companies I’m looking at you…)

A company who takes any customer for granted today does so at their own peril.

Good customer relationships should be important to us in IT and Cyber as we help solve externally facing technical challenges – knowing how and helping your Company increase customer intimacy, trust, spend is huge. But it also should be a lesson for all of us within enterprise IT and how we look at customer management and customer relationships – whether that’s through BRM or a helpdesk, a project manager, agile team, etc.  The channels by which our users and customers can contact us are important.  But equally so is our responsiveness and personal touch or empathy, our understanding of the frustrations and challenges that come with using complex technology in multiple settings, on top of a rapid pace of modern life and lots of business change.

Not just hiring for but scaling up your teams in emotional intelligence, customer service, great written and oral communications is key to building successful business relationships and successful customer relationships. How do you think design teams can invent, innovate and accelerate around solving the same exact communication challenges you may be having with your external customers if we can’t first fix it for ourselves internally?

 

 

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on customer relationships, what experiences you have had and what customer relationships are like in your organisation?  Please drop me a line.