In today’s world, the only thing that is separating companies from offering another commodity is the relationships they have with their customers. If you do not have a relationship with your customer, you better be the cheapest. Companies believe their product is superior, but there are a lot of smart professionals out there and comparable products. I have yet to have anyone disagree with the premise that relationships are what truly give us a distinct advantage. However, I believe that a high percentage of businesses do not know what a real relationship is. Just because you recognize your customer’s face or the sound of their voice does not mean you have a relationship.
BLACK & WHITE
I am not a fan of platitudes unless they are backed by measurable action items. For instance, you tell me you have a relationship with your customer — great. Prove it. If you truly have a relationship with your customer, or anyone, then you should be able to tell me two or more things regarding F.O.R.D. about your customer.
If you can tell me two or more things about their family, occupation, recreation, & dreams, you really do have a relationship. If not, then you are kidding yourself and you’d better be the least expensive because you have no emotional brand capital with your customers. I don’t care if you have to cheat and resource your CRM system or notes. Anytime you touch a customer via the phone, electronically or face-to-face, you should deliver one Customer Intelligence item about them. Customer Intelligence is what we know about our customers (i.e. F.O.R.D). One of the best ways we have found to obtain Customer Intelligence is through the Customer Intelligence notepads and desk pads.
These tools dramatically increase our awareness of all the customer intelligence thrown at us each day, which we duck from, because we are too busy trying to execute the task at hand. The C.I. Notepads are ideal for professionals on the run, at meetings and networking events, when they are not working at their desk. As soon as you walk away from the customer or prospect, you write down everything they just told you, i.e. leaving for a vacation, alumni of Northwestern University, daughters on a traveling soccer team. The C.I. Desk pads are for when you are at your desk and accomplish the same thing. Then, when you have a moment later in the day, you enter this in your CRM system and are able to retrieve it when you contact that customer again.
The C.I. pads are not meant to hamper your productivity. They are to enhance your listening skills and allow you to build relationships. I have a very large consulting client who hired us to work with their call center over the past 18 months. We rolled out these Customer Intelligence Desk pads and told their representatives not to ask any of these questions. Given the amount of calls they handle per day, we didn’t want to make them less productive, rather more effective. The first week we gave everyone the C.I. Desk pads, one of the call center reps went into her supervisor’s office and said, “I know you had Jim from ABC as a mystery shopper today. He told me more today than he has told me in the five years we have been having a weekly call.” Her boss responded with, “I have not spoken to Jim or any of your customers.”
The fact is, the call center rep heard more that day than she has ever heard before. For instance, when she said, “Okay Jim, I will talk to you next Wednesday.” Jim responded with, “No, that won’t work. My family and I will be on vacation in Orlando all next week. It will have to be in two weeks.” Bam! She heard it. Now she can do one of a few things: Tell him to have a great vacation, follow up with him in two weeks and ask him about his vacation, or if he is a VIP customer, (one of their top customers) she may want to get approval to have some surprise (i.e. fruit tray, bottle of wine, etc.) waiting in his hotel room upon his arrival in Orlando.
SHOW ME YOU CARE MORE ABOUT HELPING MY BUSINESS THAN JUST GETTING MY BUSINESS
It doesn’t matter how you collect customer intelligence. The critical piece is that you create a system that helps you pay more attention to hearing and obtaining your customer’s information so you can document and follow up to demonstrate that you are not like anyone else with whom they do business. Personally, my Customer Intelligence Notepad is always with my wallet, car keys and cell phone. I don’t leave home without it, so I can learn more about F.O.R.D. on each of my customers.
I learned about the F.O.R.D. acronym from one of our Secret Service Agents, Mr. Don Thorpe, who lives Secret Service in his daily life.