Know Thy Customer Well To Serve Them

From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

  1. Forward
  2. In the News
    How Can You Serve A Customer You Do Not Know?
    Making Strategic Relations Work for You
    Get Only As Personal As Your Customer Desires
  3. Strategic Relations Tip for Today
    Instantaneous Regular Communications Builds Credibility
  4. Shameless Self Promotion


Too often, I see executives and managers missing simple rules of business relationships. I will discuss a few of those rules in this issue.

You will learn how to get customers to open up, see examples of understanding their needs, and will discover how to build credibility with regular communications.

Your feedback helps me better serve your needs. I appreciate it when you pass this newsletter along to other executives interested in business relationships or even just drop me a short note with your comments. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.


Justin Hitt
Strategic Relations Consultant, Author & Speaker

In the News

How Can You Serve A Customer You Do Not Know?

In almost every issue of Inside Strategic Relations, I ask, "What can I do for you?" I am trying to make it a habit and you should too. How will you know what your customers want if you do not ask them?

If you want to get closer to customers, you will need to know what they want. By knowing your customers needs you will discover places to be and things to do so they will seek you out. New customers will invite you into their business, and want to do business with you.

Why do customers open up when you understand their needs?

I think simple empathy is the reason customers open up when you truly understand their needs. Here are two scenarios that demonstrate the difference between not having and having strong business relationships.

Scenario 1: Without Establishing a Relationship

Imagine you are frustrated, perhaps facing a challenge in your business you never expected to happen. If only you had a solution, if only you knew what to do. This happens to everyone.

You can do one of two things; (a) get on the phone to call your vendors to find a solution, or (b) nothing. Often people do nothing. It is true, they say, "It doesn't hurt to bad" or "It's not really a problem yet."

This is exactly what many of your customers are experiencing right now.

Most often than not, by the time a customer calls you, that little problem really hurts. Unfortunately, in the business to business world it could be 3-months in a competitive bid before you actually get to do anything about it.

When you finally get to the customers problem you notice warning signs that span back two years. In fact, the whole "fire" could have been avoided if a few simple tasks were taken when a certain trigger event happened. If only a customer knew to call you earlier.

Scenario 2: Building on an Existing Relationship

You have an open dialog with your customers key decision makers, you explain to them certain trigger events -- experiences they may have as a company in a specific industry that will cause trouble down the line. Your company is invited to address small preventative measures, nothing big, just a little work here and there.

While supporting the customer you notice other scenarios that, while it is not a problem now, could be a real issue in two years. Instead of putting the issue on the back burner your customer agrees to start developing a plan to eliminate the future challenge. More billable hours, perhaps even products sold into the solution.

Your organization is involved in the plan development and suggests enhancements that improve productivity for the client. Of course, this means no competitive bids, just regular income for your company. Things are boring but consistent, no surprises, no "fires."

The difference a little understanding makes

What makes scenario 1 so different from scenario 2? It is possible the customer even spends the same amount of money in both situations, but in the second, they experience less friction (or disruption to their own business).

Reducing the challenges your customers experience by educating them in each interaction removes disruptions that cause loss in time and resources. The customer still needs to choose to go with your organization, but the open communications you provide builds trust and credibility. You save your customers lots of money, but what does this really mean to you.

By saving your customer time, resources, and ultimately headaches, you demonstrate you are worth keeping around. Even more importantly, you develop a bond that makes you the first choice when other issues occur.

When you communicate with customers you are not just chatting, you are asking questions about their experiences, their needs, and objectives as far as your offering is concerned. You are not just doing what they hirer you for, but being proactive about what else they need.

By understanding the problems your customers faces you can introduce them to solutions (introductions that further establish your value to that customer.) The next time a customer has a problem, they are likely to come to you. You earn a customer for life.

In another article, I can tell you more about how to improve your profits through this open exchange. Right now, understand you do not even have to be the provider for all your customers needs -- just know where their solutions can be found and demonstrate to your customers, you are the one to ask.

The more you can help your customer solve problems in your scope of expertise, the more they will rely on your organization for other things. Trust, credibility, and open communications produce lasting business relationships. What challenges are your customers experiencing right now?

© 2003 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
/ interaction-points | customer-service /

Do you see something that stands out in this article; I want to hear from you, write feedback-newsletter

Making Strategic Relations Work for You

Right now you can influence what will be published in future issues of Inside Strategic Relations. I am working on the editorial calendar and want to hear from you. Choose the topics you want, I can be as technical as you need or focused for easy reading.

Tell me a little about your company, industry, and the relationship challenge you face. Say as much or as little about the problem, you are facing, and I will outline usable solutions for you over the next couple of issues.

Are you facing issues with a certain supplier? If so, tell me about it. You may even face challenges from employee relationships. I want to help you solve them over the next couple of issues.

All responses are held in the strictest of confidence. Put in your vote, just reply to this newsletter with your comments.

Get Only As Personal As Your Customer Desires

With the late break ruling on telemarketing and use of fax machines in communicating with other businesses, it is more important than ever to establish a personal one-to-one relationship. It only takes a few customers to misinterpreted irregular communications as unsolicited, according to the Federal Trade Commission; you could face fines up to US$11,000. Similar laws are on the book in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Make a habit of contacting customers regularly through various communications channels including personal visits. I know this is very expensive, so choose those you visit for their potential profitability. The key is there should be no doubt in the prospects mind that they gave you permission and consent to a visit.

I often advocate collecting as much information on your prospective customers as possible, the more you know the better you can serve them. With this data collection, you have certain responsibilities, both legally and ethically. It is important you stay in touch with those who may benefit from your products, but always give them a means of stopping further contacts.

Quick references for further reading:

Have you seen a news story that I may find interesting as it pertains to strategic relations? Does your company have a story about results with strategic relations? I'd like to hear about it. Email me at feedback-newsletter

Strategic Relations Tip for Today

Instantaneous regular communications builds credibility

The only way I can show you how strategic relations works is to use it myself -- actually demonstrate its value. I have often advocated regular communications between information providers and receivers; you can see this in action on my web log at

My web log provides short informative strategies comprised of current research, and notes for upcoming publications. The web log represents a weeks worth of content regularly posted to Applying Strategic Relations.

Check back often, not only do I link to addition resources to provide context, but also I try to focus on materials you can put into action right now. You will want to share this link with key staff to which you assign relationship-building tasks.

If you have a corporate Intranet utilizes a News Aggregator, you can get up to the minute updates through XML-RPC and SOAP. Drop me an email for more information.

What is the lesson I am demonstrating here? Well let me show you, in my short article "Relationship Building Examples Using A Weblog"

Share the most important relationships building lesson you've learned in your career; or, the best lesson you've learned reading this newsletter. Email your tip to tiptoday-newsletter

Shameless Self Promotion

We can Grow Together

With your help, I want to add another 1,000 subscribers to the readership this month. That's more people who just like you want to be the best in what they do through building stronger business relationships. If your company executives are not already subscribers, invite them to subscribe to Inside Strategic Relations today. Your company deserves it.

I will be contacting all subscribers in the United States to learn what you would like to read in this newsletter. Some subscribers have been on this list since 1999. If you me to contact you for feedback, drop me an email with your phone number and best time to call.

You are welcome to ask questions of me when I call, but am willing to keep the call short -- your time is very valuable.

In this newsletter, you receive the product of 5 and 10 hours a week of research, years of my own experiences and those of my clients. I try to embed real solutions in each page.

Already many readers just like you do this

Readers just like you forward this newsletter to executives who have recently taken on new responsibilities, up and coming mangers who want to work on relationship skills, even to marketing executives interested in reaching more buying customers.

Together we can make sure you look forward to every issue. Truly, if I can do anything for you, please let me know. Call anytime between 11am and 6pm EST, +1 (877) 207-3798

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