It’s possibly an over-reach to say the following. But, I’ll say it anyway: Today’s CEOs are pressed with more demands on their time to be leaders, visionaries, tactical masters, execution executives, communicators and cheerleaders and ruthless executioners of tactics and strategy. And that’s for their existing brand, in their existing market, facing their existing competitors. Oh, and there’s a recession right now.
And now, you CEOs are pressed harder these days than ever before to reach out and connect with your customers. Why? that connection, that bond, that knowledge gleaned, with your customers is the source of recurring revenues, testimonials, word-of-mouth, referrals, upselling, lower advertising costs, greater efficiency in your operations as you target accurately your customers’ needs. That connection is the source, the destination, of your competitive edge.
Few actions flatter a customer more than the CEO of one of their service providers asking to speak with them. Nothing is as effective as YOU, the CEO, hearing in their words, what your customer thinks about your company.
So, how does a CEO begin to reach out and talk with their customers?
Here’s a plan I followed to talk to up 50 customers per month.
1. Block out 30 minutes daily. I recommend the first hour of every day. Remember: it’s your most important task. Take a list with you when you travel. It’s a good way to spend time between flights.
2. Prepare a list of 5 customers to call the following day. Why 5? My goal was to speak in person with 2-3 customers. I found phone numbers had changed and contacts had left. My job is to speak to customers, not update your records. Some days, I spoke with 4; other days 0.
3. Search the CRM database. I targeted a specific category of customers:
- biggest billers
- newest customers
- oldest customers
- customers who sent the most referrals (You track the source of your referrals, right? ).
- customers with a recent problem
4. Review their records first. Know their services; understand their relationship with your company before you call. Touch on any issues or calls with them. It communicates they are important and you are prepared.
- Added bonus: I better understood our CRM application, its features and their abilities (disabilities sometimes) and how it enabled (disabled) our staff from making customers happy. This benefit cannot be overstated.
5. Follow-up after each call with an email. I covered the points in our conversation and ended with my personal contact information that included my cell phone.
6. Note on the customer record the call and any outstanding issues discussed. I made this note even if I reached the customer's voice mail. I noted who I spoke, any changes on the customer record, issues discussed and the date of this contact.
Why? I was a member of the Customer Service team at that point. That information could be important to other members on the next call from that customer.
7. Follow-up with Customer Service or Sales as needed.
- Teaser: 30% those customers I spoke with wanted to hear about our other services. 50 of those customers then added or upgraded their services. Bottomline: It’s worth your time.
Now, I've showed a simple, doable, schedule.
What do you say?
- I introduced myself.
- I apologized for interrupting.
- I assured them I was not calling to sell them something.
- Then, I explained to them the purpose of my call. I wanted to make sure you were happy with our service or if you’re unhappy, help me understand what we did and how we can change that.
Then I was quiet. I listened. They spoke. In their words.
I followed up with any issues noted in their customer record.
- Had we taken care of this issue?
- Did we handle your needs promptly?
- Have we ever NOT handled them promptly, etc?
I followed up with The Ultimate Question Survey: .
- Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?
- On a scale of 0-10 how likely would you be to recommend us to a friend or colleague?
Based on their responses, you ask:
- Customer response: 8 - 10. What did you say when you recommended us?
- Customer response: 0 - 7. What do we need to do change your answer to 8 or higher?
Their scores here created their Net Promoter Score. Collectively, they created our corporate Net Promoter Score.
Note: Our company’s size precluded a full-scale, expensive, thrid-party survey firm. Regardless, the results from this step with our other customer data far outweighed any possible data distortion.
The results generated from this modest investment of time include:
- a regular source of inspiration and celebration I could share with everyone for their results with our customers
- regular feedback on steps we could take to improve our service
- more revenues from more upselling, cross-selling
- more referrals
- less dependence on expensive advertising
- better cash-flows
- greater understanding of the story told in our regular accounting reports including those I discussed at this guest post on SmallBizTrends titled Which Report is the Important Report?
That was worth 30 minutes of my day, regularly. Will it be for you? I am pretty confident it will be worth 30 minutes of your day.
Disclaimer: there were days or even weeks when I would fail to invest this time. Urgent-Urgent activities pre-empted this. And, honestly, I would forget. I always regretted it, too.