Do you talk to your customers?

When you read the title of this post (and my last post of 2008), I’m sure you instantly said to yourself, “of course.” But what if I qualify the question and instead ask, “do you talk to your customers with no intention of selling them anything and without them asking for you to call them?” Chances are, you’ll need to think about that question in more detail.

Interacting with customers in an informal way is an essential part of customer service. Great companies talk to their customers frequently. They ask how they’re doing, what they think of the company, and if they have any feedback to share. More often than not, interesting and useful feedback comes about from calls like this. If useful feedback doesn’t come about, that’s okay, too (you’re still making a positive impression on the customer).

You generally get the most out of these calls when you get on them with a few things at hand:

An informal agenda. These calls or meetings should not be ultra-formal “get things done” meetings with a notetaker and a stop watch (complete overkill). However, you should have an idea of what you want to talk about and what you think the customer will want to talk about. The idea is to let the customer talk and for you to respond when necessary. Be sure to have an agenda that reflects that.

Some information about the customer. Don’t go into the call with just a name and a phone number. Check how long the customer has been with your company, what type of services they use, their support history, and so on. See if they have referred any of their friends or colleagues to your company. Check out what they’ve purchased, how many account managers they’ve had, etc. The more you know about the customer, the better. If you know something about them, you can tweak the content and direction of the call accordingly.

Do a couple of these calls a week and make sure different people do them. The CEO can do one, the VP of Engineering can do another, and so on. If these people don’t regularly work with customers (and even if they do), they’ll get a lot out of these calls. Make it a New Year’s resolution to have ten senior managers / executives call at least two customers a week. That’s over 1,000 customers a year and it will make a difference.

Happy New Year!