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Nothing is dumber than getting mad at a customer. What is the point? These days when it is harder than ever to get a new customer and even harder to keep that customer amidst the barrage of competition coming from all sides, there is nothing more counterproductive than getting mad at one of your customers.
Look, I know customers can be demanding. They can be hard to deal with and, yes, sometimes even totally unreasonable. But that doesn’t matter, because part of being in business is servicing your customers, providing them with whatever they want. Note that I said what they want, which is not always what they need, or what you think they need. No, you have to give them what they want.
As the airlines are fond of telling us, in today’s market, customers have many choices. (Actually, that isn’t quite true; we have too few choices and are stuck with lousy airline service, but that’s a column for another day). In our case, in our industry, there are many choices our customer can make; if you don’t believe that, just ask them. But our customers have many options when they buy their circuit boards. From the cheap guy down the street to the cheaper guy across the big pond, they have all the choices in the world and they exercise them freely all the time. Vendor loyalty is at an all-time low.
So, ladies and gentlemen, that is why you can never get mad at your customers. You have to treat them like gold and make sure you are so valuable to them that they will never want to leave you. The trick is figuring out how to do that. How will you make sure that you keep your customers happy today and in the future?
Here are five ways to make sure you are so valuable, so loved by your customers, that they will never want to leave you.
- Anticipate your customers’ needs. Too many of us are sitting around waiting for the next demand to come down from our customers. This is wrong, and it turns us into victims. The better way is to learn everything about your customers, their end-products, their market, how they handle your boards, what they do with them when they arrive, and everything else they really need from you—and then give it to them.
- Realize that you’re not just selling boards, but rather an integral part of their system, a key component and a critical ingredient to their success. Our job is to figure out how we can help our customers be successful. Is there a better way to package our boards that will make it easier for our customers? Can we help them with their designs? Maybe it’s meeting with customers and their end-customers and listening intently enough to come up with ways to make everyone more successful.
- Have regular check-ups. Ask your customers if you can meet with them on a regular basis to make sure you are on the right track. Ask to visit face to face and find out how you are doing. Have a set of questions prepared so that you can develop a file on each customer that includes their special preferences so you can be outstanding and valuable.
- This is a team effort. Don’t just leave it up to the salespeople to talk to customers. Your customers belong to everyone in your shop so make sure that all your key people are on a first-name basis with your customers’ appropriate counterparts. This could be the most important thing you have ever done. Customer service is an whole company effort. Every single person in your company is a customer service person and a salesperson. And it’s your job as a leader to make sure that everyone in your company, from the guy in plating to the lady in drilling, knows everything they can about their customers.
- Create a customer satisfaction team that does nothing but focus on the customers and the way your company can please them. This team should include representatives from every department in your company. They should meet at least once a week to work on ways to delight their customers. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine spending one hour a week focused on your customers and how you can make them love you? It’s so simple, yet so rare. I don’t know of a single company in our industry that is doing this today. So, you can be the first. Give it a try and you’ll quickly be the most outstanding company in a virtual wasteland of customer delight. And yes, there is one more—always under-promise and over-deliver.
- If you own the company or are the company president, then pick up that phone and call your customers. They will take your call—you are the president, after all—and they will be anxious to talk to you. You will not only gain great insight into your customer and his needs, you will also impress him with your dedication to making sure he is delighted. The very action of picking up the phone and calling your customer will go a very long way toward letting that customer know how much you care. And once again, almost no one in our industry is doing this; you will be outstanding in the truest sense of the word.
Please give these ideas a try. This country is losing so many PCB companies that it is time we really stepped up to make sure our customers never even consider taking their business elsewhere.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is a 30-year PCB industry veteran, sales and marketing expert and writer who contributes to numerous industry publications, on topics ranging from sales and marketing to board shop performance.