Wednesday, 24 February 2016 16:16

How Do You Become a Better Resource for Your Customers?

Generally speaking, in the hardwood lumber industry, the first question a new prospective customer asks is, “Can you give me a quote on a product?” Many times that is because they are used to treating hardwood lumber as a commodity business.

However, over the years, we’ve worked hard to become more than just a commodities provider. We strive each and every day to develop relationships, provide counsel and guidance on important decisions and help solve business problems. We focus on being a trusted partner for our customers—a resource they know they can count on when faced with a challenge or opportunity.

From what we have learned, being a better resource for your customer can mean different things to different people. Here are a few that have worked for us.

1. Share information about the industry. Anytime you can offer insights either into a better use for your product or service, or about the industry in general, you’re providing a service to customers. And with social media and other pilingsmapleavenues, it’s easy to communicate these insights through blog posts, white papers, newsletters, etc. This becomes especially meaningful if the news and information you offer helps their businesses become more efficient and profitable.

2. Talk business not just products. Yes, your relationship with your customer is probably centered on what you provide. However, don’t only talk product. Get a better understanding or your customer’s business objectives, their goals, their pain points. If you better understand their “big picture” you will better understand what they will need to be successful and maybe you will be able to share better ideas and solutions with them.

3. Connect customers with others in your network. It’s likely you know of businesses that might benefit from products or services your own customers provide. Why not make the effort to connect them? It’s another way to demonstrate your value as a trusted resource that, in the customer’s eyes, “is always looking out for me.”

4. Reach out on a regular basis. Most customers will only get in touch when they need something from you. That’s fine—you want them to know they can get what they need at any time—but when you reach out proactively, it sets you apart from others in your industry. “Reaching out,” of course, isn’t the same thing as trying to make a sale. Instead, check in to see how the customer’s business is doing and if there’s any help you can provide to better meet their needs and expectations.

5. Understand that customer satisfaction is not the same thing as customer loyalty. A customer who’s satisfied with the product or service provided “is simply someone who has received what he was promised—nothing more, nothing less,” notes business consultant Tom Cates. “Strong customer relationships, on the other hand, imply that you have delivered something extra or provided added value to the customer.”

In these times, it’s no longer enough to simply deliver a product or service and expect your business to grow. As Tom Cates puts it, “Companies that build and maintain excellent customer and client relationships lead the pack, whereas those that don’t put clients first fall off pace and eventually, disappear completely.”

What other ways have you found you can be a better resource for your customers?

Tony Cimorelli
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