For a CEO to lose touch with what his customers want, need and feel is a surefire route to failure. For many CEOs, though, meeting customers is daunting or seen as a waste of time. Happily, there is nothing further from the truth, and establishing effective contact with customers is incredibly straightforward.
Here are six ways to get closer to your customers.
A highly effective way of getting in touch with customers is to join the sales team on some of their big pitches. This results in a number of positive outcomes. Firstly, the CEO gets to meet customers and hear first-hand what is important to them as well as how the company and its products are currently perceived. Secondly, it impresses potential customers that the CEO cares about their business. This can often be the differentiator that means your company wins the deal. Thirdly, it breaks the ice, so that if the CEO, or the customer, would like to arrange a conversation about the products or services (or anything else), it’s much easier just to pick up the phone and chat openly.
Thanking for Business
In a similar vein, the CEO can decide to personally take on the job of calling all new customers and thanking them for their business. The customer will appreciate hugely such a kind touch. It also enables the CEO to ask a few, elegant questions about why his/her company was chosen, enhancing his/her perspective of what clients value.
Again, similarly, many companies see the great value in frequent and honest reviews with their customers. If these happen, they are a terrific way for the CEO to meet the clients and show his/her commitment to their satisfaction. If the customer is experiencing any problems, this will be the forum for them to be aired. This means that the CEO is able to garner a great feel for what needs to be improved and spot patterns and trends of disappointment or dissatisfaction amongst the client base. Without doubt, a CEO’s presence makes clients feel important and valued.
Point of Escalation for Issues
Throughout all of the above activities, any CEO should ensure s/he expresses his or her desire for the client’s purchase to be a successful one. At the same time, the CEO needs to be clear that s/he would like to know directly if the products or services fall short of the clients’ expectations.
Many of these activities are face-to-face or person-to-person. Sometimes, though, it’s useful to get anonymous feedback. Providing clients with an opportunity to do so with a short, clear and compelling customer satisfaction survey is a great way of achieving this. Once the results are in, the CEO should share them internally, and with all customers. There also needs to be quick determination to identify key areas of improvement highlighted by the survey. This will demonstrate to your customers that the CEO genuinely cares.
A less formal, but no less useful way of staying in touch with customers is for the CEO to join social events. Many companies arrange corporate entertainment for major clients. Although a great deal of business is spoken, it’s also an opportunity for the CEO to get to know the customers as people and find out a little about their families and hobbies. Similarly, it’s a great way to speak about market trends and share market news. This helps the CEO see opportunities and threats that are months, maybe years ahead!
If you’re a CEO who rarely steps out of the office, you may find that you’re losing touch with people. Perhaps it’s time to cross that threshold. Otherwise, you’ll not only be out of touch with people, you’ll be out of touch with the most important of people – your customers.
About the Author
Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com.