At my company, TemplateMonster, we were in search of a customer relationship success formula for quite some time. At first, I decided to use the best practices of transnational corporations that had been able to make the key processes more effective and repeatable. We brought in consultants and wasted more than half a year on analyzing and describing all our business processes. We drew numerous process maps and diagrams, implemented a very expensive CRM system -- but it all worked only on paper.
I was very surprised when I discovered that sometimes a new employee could work with clients efficiently and get along with them so well that he could be forgiven all the professional flaws he had. And sometimes the most disciplined worker who followed all the rules couldn't get a good review from the clients. One review looked like this: "He is a good and disciplined guy doing everything on time, but we prefer to work with [the other guy]."
Then it dawned on me that clients primarily value good communication, and their business with you takes second place on the list of their demands. There are hundreds of online tools that help automate routine processes and simulate live communication, but there were no ready-made frameworks for building successful relationships with customers.
I started to study other businesses through the prism of good relations with customers and high customer lifetime value as a consequence. I was surprised to find that one of the highest customer lifetime values in the world was generated by dentists, pediatricians and other doctors. Really, if you didn't move to another city or country, it is very likely that your dentist has treated your teeth since childhood when your mom brought you in for the annual checkup. Suddenly, your wife and kids go to the same dentist, and the cycle continues.
That's how we came to use medical practices in our client relations management. We called this approach the "HACK" (Honesty Attention Care Knowledge). Let me walk you through the basics of this approach to show you how it works.
Any relationship is a deeply intimate process. Would you consider being treated by a doctor you did not trust? Of course, you wouldn't. The foundation of any long-term relationship is trust. Without building trust you are not going to be making progress.
You should always be honest with your clients and it will ultimately pay you dividends. If you understand that your solution is not going to solve the client's problem, you should back off and show him some alternatives and what choices he has on the market. This approach will impress the customer, and he will definitely tell you about all of his concerns very clearly. At the least, you will get some extra points when you next deal with this customer and, quite possibly, will generate referrals from him as well.
How would you feel about a dentist who doesn't notice a missing tooth during your next checkup? What about a dentist who calls you the wrong name by mistake? How about the one who forgets that you are allergic to the anesthetic?
It sounds terrifying, right? But, our client managers tend to forget what a client has bought from us over time. They also forget about the concerns this particular client may have had in the past and what, at the time, was the most important aspect of buying this product from you. This kind of indifference makes the client think that he is not really important to this company and he feels like just another client. Maybe he thinks that it's time to look for another company that will work with him more attentively.
Recently, I ran into a small, private cellphone shop that outperformed the Verizon Store next door. I watched for an hour as seven customers came to the Verizon Store and had to deal with well-trained sellers working off a script. Then, the customers left and went to the small-town shop where two geeky-looking guys helped them all to set up their cellphones while making jokes and giving everyone bagels to make the visitors feel at home. These employees paid no attention to the average check and served everyone equally. It did not matter whether you were an old lady who needed to set up her voicemail or a sharp looking businessman who wanted to make an iPhone upgrade.
Pay attention to the people, notice all the little things and remember all the important details. Take a course in "active listening" and become a "psychoanalyst" for your client, and he will never leave you.
For internal use we've built our own CRM, which allows us to collect and structure all possible information about our clients' businesses across dozens of fields. We've incorporated this system into the range of fundamental key performance indicators (KPIs) each employee has.
By nature, most people turn to a doctor with their problems. That is why the key to the success of a doctor, in addition to professionalism, is his ability to empathize.
In client relationships, the ability to delve into the client's problems is a key skill. When a client comes to us at TemplateMonster and wishes to choose a template for his future website, we do not ask him exactly in which style of design he is interested -- we are interested in why he needs a website in general. Did he have one before? If so, why does he think it's time to change? What exactly served as a trigger for the decision to update his site?
In my opinion, only deep understanding of a client's problems and empathy with them can lead to a real win-win result.
You will never bring your problems to a doctor if you are not seriously confident in her knowledge and professionalism, and it doesn't matter how sociable or welcoming she is if she is not sufficiently skilled. This mix works only through a combination of all the ingredients.
Here at TemplateMonster we are used to applying the "pay it forward" rule. That's when you try to bring value to a client prior to the actual transaction without any commitment on his side. This is an amazing way to show your expertise and professionalism and enter a level of trust building in your relationship. One of the most effective tools for this purpose is content marketing.
We are also implementing an educational program called the "Client Success Academy" where we strive to get the most detailed information about the challenges our clients encounter. This course is priceless for our company's new product ideas.
We wish you luck with your experiments and remember, the health of a client is the supreme goal for any doctor. In business, the success of a client is the highest reward for any entrepreneur.
Related Video: How to Keep Your Customers Coming Back Time and Time Again