By Bill Pollock, president and principal consulting analyst, Strategies For Growth
Keeping current with your customers is very important. It is also very easy. In fact, it may be just as simple as spending some time reviewing the news and announcements coming from your company; routinely searching the Internet for news related to your customers’ businesses and the various industry segments they support; reading published articles that focus on new developments related to the tools and technologies used to support Field Service Management (FSM), Spare Parts Management (SPM), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) activities, etc. The basic fact is that customers will always appreciate hearing news about advances in the technologies and tools your company is using to manage its services business.
Undoubtedly, your company will try to keep you up-to-date on advancements through the distribution of internal newsletters, memoranda, emails, and the like; however, as always, you should actively seek out the most applicable resources to suit your own – and your customers’ – particular needs. Don't just wait to receive something via e-mail from your company’s product or software development divisions; instead, be proactively in determining if anything new has been posted or updated since your last call to your customer.
Doing your research and being well-informed on what your customers are up to also helps you present in a more professional manner. For instance, rather than simply calling or visiting your customers and saying something like, “Is there anything else we can do for you at this time?”; you can utilize the data you’ve gathered to say something like, “I just read that you’ve acquired a mid-sized services organization in the Midwest, and that you’ll be consolidating some of your facilities once the acquisition goes through. We’ve dealt with many businesses that have undergone the same types of growth and, perhaps, we can schedule some time to catch-up and plan for how we can continue to support your “new” company!”
Customers will likely be much more responsive to your outreach if they believe you have done your homework on how fast they are growing, changing, and shifting in terms of corporate mindset and market approach. If they believe you are more engaged with them, they will be more engaged with you.
The secret to success for keeping current with your customers is to make sure that you treat all of your information channels as two-way streets. Don't just wait to hear something from your customer; actively look for information that shows them you understand – and care about – their specific business segment. In this way, you can also identify unique areas where you believe your organization can provide needed field service performance improvement.
For every field services manager who does not keep current with the services needs and requirements of his or her customers, there will be dozens of others who do. However, by continually – and proactively – seeking information that will help you inform your customers better, you will also be making both your job – and theirs – a whole lot easier.
By using the LOTS approach (i.e., Listen, Observe, Think, Speak), you can easily obtain whatever information may have been missing from your understanding of exactly where the customer is coming from. And, by doing so, you can ensure that you will always remain current with respect to your customers’ thoughts, concerns and perceptions relating to the way in which you support their equipment.