How can you make your company stand out from the crowd? This is a question that many business leaders have asked themselves for years.
Consider employing “Business Essentials,” a name for seven service aspects that are fundamental to building strong relationships in the transportation services industry whatever business you are in--including trucking or other transportation management entities.
Business Essential #1: Do what you say you will do
Keeping your promises is a fundamental element in building trust; trust is the foundation of all great relationships.
Service failures are a fact of business life; at some moment a customer will be let down. Whether it is a product defect, a late delivery, or a phone call that is not returned in a timely manner, you will want to make a graceful recovery. Often when we make a graceful recovery, we build a stronger relationship than if we had not had a problem in the first place!
Whether you promise to replace the product, refund the delivery charge, or return calls more promptly, it is essential that you follow through and do what you said you would do.
Business Essential #2: React quickly to customer needs
Whether they are an existing customer or a prospect, people contacting your company are expecting a quick reaction or response.
What is a quick reaction you ask? That may depend on the mode of communication.
Inquiries that come in via email or through your website are every bit as urgent as incoming calls or text messages. An immediate reply is ideal, and, in fact, this is what we have all become accustomed to.
Often inquiries via company websites go completely unanswered; this is another instance of failing to do what you say you will do … and we know the consequences.
Showing your customers, and prospective customers, you care and are concerned about meeting their needs quickly, helps build competitor-resistant relationships.
Business Essential #3: Be accessible
Accessibility is a critical element of a relationship with suppliers, vendors and associates.
Accessibility reflects the ease with which customers and prospects can connect with you:
- The auto-attendant is easy to navigate – how many menus does a caller have to navigate?
- The company phone directory contains all the contact names (including the President) and can be searched by first or last name to find even the person we may know only as Mike
- Provide your cell phone number - although they may be reluctant to use your cell number callers know that they can
- You reply to messages quickly (voicemail and email) – in less than an hour ideally
- When you are away for an extended time, your voicemail greeting offers an alternate contact who is empowered and has the expertise to help
- Your hours of operation are aligned with when customers and prospects need access – if your customers need to do business with you after hours and/or on weekends – can they?
Being accessible helps build competitor-resistant relationships.
Business Essential #4: Take time to listen and understand the customer’s concerns and needs
When you don’t listen, you show disrespect and a lack of emotional intelligence in the relationship; customers often tell The Dunvegan Group that the thing they value most in the relationship they have with their vendor/supplier is that their account representative listens to them. Conversely, when asked what they would like the vendor/supplier to change or improve, ‘listen/better listening’ is often at the top of the list.
Do you take time to listen to your customers’ “whole story”, or are you rushing to the solution before they have finished speaking?
Business Essential #5: Be proactive in communicating changes in how you are fulfilling customer needs
Some customers like surprises but most do not … specially when the surprise is a service failure.
Be proactive by empowering your customers to make accommodation for late arrival or to rework their schedules to accommodate early delivery or incomplete orders.
Business Essential #6: Make sure your billings and statements are accurate
This is a basic expectation of all customers. Accurate billings and statements won’t attract new customers; however, inaccurate billings drive customers away!
When there are discrepancies in the billings, customers become suspicious and resentful of the time and energy they must invest in checking your billings thoroughly. Repeated errors add to the cost of doing business with your company and erodes the customers’ trust in your company.
Business Essential #7: Be easy to do business with
This service aspect reflects the overall effort required to do business with you.
Assuming you have been accessible when needed, listened to understand customer and prospective customers’ concerns, and needs, taken quick and appropriate action, kept your promises, proactively managed communication about changes and made certain that billings and statements are accurate, you will have covered the basics.
Your customers may prefer to communicate via text message, Instagram, phone, email or perhaps some other method. Have you accommodated this? What else does your customer want in order to feel that you are easy to do business with?
While these seven service aspects may seem very basic to you, customers experience service failures every day. Customers and prospective customers report that when their vendor/supplier consistently delivers on all seven of these Business Essentials, they exceed the customers’ expectations!
By consistently delivering on these seven Business Essentials, you will set your business apart from the competitors, keep your customers coming back and grow your revenues!
(Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987. Since then, she and her company have built a reputation in the specialized area of customer and employee retention. The Dunvegan Group’s system helps companies to build competitor-resistant relationships with both employees and customers.
The Dunvegan Group invested more than 10 years in the development and testing of its proprietary metrics to better evaluate the strength of customer relationships and predict customer retention … specifically in the B2B space and particularly in the transportation arena. Miner is the author of several books including Measuring Up: A Guide to Success with Customer Feedback.)