In my early career, the common mantra “customer is king” was displayed in large writing in many of the offices I worked in, this is something that stuck with me and helped me understand that in business we are very lucky to have our customers and those relationships are hard earned and nurtured.
Now later in my career owning and running a business, we constantly strive to deliver the best possible service and customer experience (in fact, we won an award this year for Customer Service Excellence Mendip Business Awards) and the “customer is king” mantra remains as a focus.
How do you know if you're a good customer?
However, are we always a great customer? Try pausing and putting yourself in the supplier’s shoes, think about how you rate as a customer for a moment?
Communicate your expectations very clearly
Inform the supplier when things change and give a heads up whenever possible
Behave honestly, politely and in a friendly manner
Aim to work in collaboration and take advice on board
Enrich, develop and encourage growth in their business
Interestingly enough, many of these qualities are the same ones that describe a good customer service experience. While good customer service is a product of many factors, it is reasonable to suggest that customers who exhibit the qualities above will likely receive excellent service in return.
A wise man once told me (in a thick Somerset accent) “don’t ever begrudge someone earning a living young’en.”
Driving a supplier, especially when you or your business is in a position of power, into an unprofitable or over exposed position will often only result in a disgruntled delivery or even perhaps no delivery, so it pays to ensure your supplier is making a profit. Your business will be of higher value to them and the relationship will I am sure be reciprocal.
In addition, a profitable supplier (should) have the inclination, time and resource available to improve themselves, making investments and growing, which in turn allows your business to benefit from that long term and trusted relationship. Your input can help them become better at delivering the service or products you buy.
Over the years, we have been very lucky to have some great long-term relationships with our customers, they have worked with us when we made mistakes, let us learn from our failures and suggested improvements we could make to our service. A long standing and trusting relationship allow this reciprocal feedback.
On the other hand, we have also had some downright awful customers! The people that pay for our advice yet ignore every word of it (but still point blame when issues arise as a result). Shout and ball at our team members for no good reason or even talk to members of the team in a dismissive and even sometimes aggressive tone.
We now have no fear in “sacking” customers that don’t treat our team with the human respect they deserve – funnily enough, there is a pattern, these people often suffer high staff turnover and regularly change key suppliers – I wonder why?
Politeness costs nothing
When dealing with your suppliers do you treat them or their service delivery agents with respect? We are all human, nobody deserves rudeness, disrespect or out and out aggression, and once again, this is often reflected in the service you receive.
So the next time your supplier delivers something over and above, the representative does all the right things, or another department in your business helps you meet a tight deadline, let them know how much you appreciate their good work.
You might find that it feels even better to give a compliment and thanks than it does to receive.