A recent article in the Economist focused on the secret of IBM’s long success story as the latter celebrated its 100th anniversary last month. The article suggests that IBM’s success was due more to its ‘strong customer relationships than with its machines or software’. The fact that this large organisation has always kept up regular communication with its customers has been an essential key to its success.
Everyone would agree in principle that maintaining customers once they are part of your client base is fundamental. With time, your customers build up a relationship with your company and consequently develop a sense of loyalty. They are therefore more open to any changes that your company implements and more understanding than new customers might be of any errors or delays. So, what are the benefits of communicating regularly with these customers?
1. Regular communication makes change easier. As IBM experienced, market changes can be rough and the survivors are those companies who learn to adapt quickly to these changes. Customers will be more inclined to stay with the company they trust when changes in the market occur. Trust is built up through regular communication and can help ease existing customers through these changes by making them appear less dramatic.
2. Customers can be a source for new ideas. Good communication works both ways. It is important to allow customers to express their views on your products or services and to make suggestions about what improvements can be made. This ‘feedback’ could reveal some common feelings among large numbers of customers and imply that some modifications need to be made. Customers who see that you are acting on their comments will feel valued and continue to communicate in this constructive way.
3. Listening to customers’ needs helps companies tailor and improve their products and services. Working together with your customers enables you to develop services that are tailored to their specific needs. Why impose products or services on a customer when ones can be developed which suit the customer better? Each customer is an individual and consequently has individual needs. Since 2002 the IBM services industry, its main division, often ‘co-creates’ products with customers.
4. Good reputations are spread just like bad ones. Customers who feel valued by regular contact with a company will probably talk about this manufacturer, distributer or service provider to people they know. This marketing is extremely important as it is based on genuine personal experience. Personal referrals and recommendations can be worth just as much as the best written brochures and websites.
Communication Skills training
Excellent communication skills don’t come naturally to everyone. This is why smart organisations invest in Communication Skills training programmes to ensure that their customer facing employees are able to talk and listen to their clients helping them to build more effective relationships.