Does this describe your marketing strategy: We do great work and our customers appreciate us for it. We get most of our sales from existing customers — either they trust us when we tell them they need additional work done and/or they are happy to recommend us to their colleagues.
If this sounds like your company’s marketing strategy, then you need to make sure you’re doing the best job possible at managing those account relationships, including hearing what people have to say when things don’t go as planned.
I recently had coffee with my colleague, Ann Amati. Ann consults with small businesses on customer acquisition, retention and wallet-share issues. Her book, What Your Customers Aren’t Telling You That You Need to Know, is a terrific, easy-to-read collection of case studies, tips and tools for companies that value Voice of the Customer feedback.
I asked Ann for five Account Management tips I could share with my readers.
- Update your customer contact list annually. This is a massive undertaking at some companies, but there’s revenue hiding under dead weight. How? When someone leaves their company, e-mails sent to them go nowhere or are ignored, and e-mails to the right person are never sent. Once a year hire a temp to verify names and titles (responsibilities) of customers you haven’t worked with in the past year.
- Once a year remind active accounts, dormant accounts and active prospects about everything you offer. Why? It’s common for a customer to pigeonhole you into the single slot defined by what that customer buys from you. You can often win wallet share away from your competitors simply by “reminding” customers of what you assume they already know: The full range of what you sell.
- Have a clear escalation path for customer complaints. Make sure customers know what that path is. It’s less painful for a frustrated customer to move on than to endure a confrontation. Put a “Customer Comment” e-mail address and/or phone number on your quotes, POs, invoices and other customer-facing documents. Decide if the recipient should be the person who manages the Account Managers, your Ops VP or your admin. After you address each issue, use the root cause as a continuous-improvement opportunity.
- Follow up with former customers and learn what it will take to win them back. Ask: Was there a mishap or systemic problem that drove them away? Has the root cause been addressed? If it has been (or if your company is willing to address it), would they come back? Keep in mind, a problem that drives away one customer will drive away many.
- Treat every change in personnel on the customer side as an on-boarding opportunity. Whether the position that turns over is the day-to-day contact position, that person’s boss or the owner of the budget, take control of what the new person knows about what your company offers. You’ll broadcast to your customer that the relationship is important to your firm. Not only could you scoop up money you’re now leaving on the table, this could work to reposition your company from “supplier” to “partner.”
Ann added in closing, “Vendors unintentionally miss an opportunity to shift from ‘vendor’ status to ‘partner’ status when they overlook compensating account managers for fully developing customer relationships and growing existing accounts. The first step is to put a partner-oriented leader in charge of Account Management.”
Interested in talking further about Account Management and customer-relationship issues? Contact Ann Amati at http://www.accountloyalty.com/contactpage-htm/ or (206) 933-6067. Use my name for a complementary copy of Ann’s book, What Your Customers Aren’t Telling You That You Need to Know. I highly recommend both Ann and her book.
- Share this article with your account managers. Decide which account management steps you are going to pursue, who is responsible, the target date for completion, and how you will review what you learned from them.
- Get a copy of What Your Customers Aren’t Telling You That You Need to Know and assign it to your management team and account managers. Meet and discuss what insights you gained and how they can be applied to your company.