Chief Relationship Officer
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This is a preview from my book, Currency: Striking Networking Gold in a Relationship Economy. To download a preview section from the book, click here.
Why do we fear feedback? We fear it so much that we donít even want good feedback. Whenever we hear that someone has feedback, the hairs on the back of our neck stand up and the pit of our stomach fills with dread. Business people are constantly seeking information. We devour business magazines and surf the Internet for information. We read the latest business books from the New York Times Best Seller List. We go to trade shows and conventions. We get personal coaches. We hire consultants ó a practice that I appreciate because I am a consultant that helps organizations improve their strategies and business relationships. We are constantly searching everywhere for information on how to improve our personal and professional lives. We search everywhere except the most logical place of all ó our customer database.
Letís pause for just a moment and remember that you have customers regardless of where you are right now in your life. If you operate in a sales role or run a company, your customers are people who buy from you. If you work for someone, your manager is your customer. If you manage someone, that person is your customer. If you are a parent, your kids, spouse, pets, and other family members are your customers. If you work in nonprofit, the people who you serve as well as your volunteers and donors are your customers. We all serve someone, and those people will stay in our lives if we do a good job of providing a great customer experience.
Your customer database contains people who know your company in a way that no one else does. In fact, they probably know a good bit about buying your product or service because they evaluated your competitors before they decided to do business with you. They probably even know what you do best ó your competitive advantage.
Our current customer database contains much of the information we need to take our companies to the next level ó all we have to do is ask. Their ideas, opinions, and information hold the key to your future. You could read, experiment, and wonder for years, or you could just reach out to people who have already voted for you with their presence in your life. I guarantee they have feedback that could help you achieve your goals.
Here are some questions that you can ask, no matter what role you fill. I guarantee these will open the dialogue.
How well am I serving your needs now? This is probably the hardest question to ask because it gets to the core of the good, bad, and ugly. All feedback is important. If Iím doing a good job, great. I want to know why the customer considers it great. If Iím not doing so great, I need to find out why. It might be something I can change or I might just not be the right fit to ever meet their needs. We donít always know what we donít know. Customer service is what the customer thinks it is ó not what we think it is. If we donít ask, we donít know what their expectations are.
Do you have any needs that Iím not currently addressing? If this is a business client, this could reveal a need that your company could also fill. It could also give you ideas about a service that your company isnít currently even offering. Ask your spouse this question and youíll learn what is on his or her heart. If you are asking the donors to your non-profit organization, they might give you an idea for a donor benefit that is free for you to offer but would ensure they would continue to support you.
How often do you have that need? This question will help you assess the potential for adding a new service that fills an unmet need. Maybe itís not a service youíll ever provide, but you can recommend where they can go to fill that need. Being a resource for trusted suppliers makes you invaluable to your existing customers. Your network of contacts is a highly regarded value-added service.
What would you say my strengths are? This can open your eyes. We tend to overlook the things people value most about us. Marcus Buckingham in his book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, says we need to focus our attention on what we do well instead of spending all our energy trying to improve what we donít do well. The feedback that you get could reveal your competitive advantage. No matter who you are, you are competing against someone or something. You need to make sure that you know your competitive advantages in all areas of your life ó even your marriage. In this day of high divorce rates, if you arenít focused on being the best spouse you can be, you risk being replaced. Gosh, thatís harsh but in this day and time, too many people seem to regard all relationships as disposable whether they are customers, employees, or spouses. Every relationship is sacred and most are worth saving. Knowing your strengths and developing those into powerhouse competitive advantages will make you a hot commodity.
This will get you started. Once you ask one of those questions to break the ice, you can dig deeper and focus on asking related questions that draw more information out of your customer. The purpose is to create meaningful conversation that creates an environment for gathering feedback. Face-to-face feedback isnít easy to take but itís even harder to give so work hard to create a safe environment for your customer to provide it.
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