Awards & Engraving

September '16

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A&E SEPTEMBER 2016 • a-e-mag.com 55 Sales & Marketing We must never forget that our cus- tomers have choices. No matter how solid we think our product offerings or services might be, there is an excel- lent chance that they are just a small part of a multitude of options that your customer has. That is why it becomes extremely important to listen to what our customers say about us as well as our competition. We can then use what we hear to deliver the best solutions. The real challenge to running a good business is to turn the information received from customers into positive moves within your organization. That is what we mean by listening to your cus- tomers. If you interact with them and make changes on the basis of what they tell you, then there is a strong chance that they will feel engaged with your business and therefore remain loyal. Never turn away from the opportu- nity to gain customer feedback. This is as important as any data that you collect about your business. Once you have the data, interpret what it means in the con- text of your business and use it to your company's benefit. It becomes especially important in today as technology has impacted the amount of power that cus- tomers have. They have never been as in control as they are today. If we want to succeed in today's business climate, we must accept this as fact and learn to integrate ourselves within it. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP As in any relationship, there is a cer- tain amount of give and take between a business and its customers, but the more "give" there is is determined by how well the business interacts and listens to its customer base. This give and take is the crux of the relationship, just as it is in other aspects of life. We have all heard the adage that "life is about relation- ships." This carries over into business as well, and when a customer ceases to feel as though they have a relationship with a company, they are apt to take their business elsewhere. The important thing to remember about business today is how rapidly things change. The needs of a customer today may be far different than the needs of tomorrow, and therefore the listening needs to be an ongoing process. Cus- tomers demand value, and value is not singularly focused. Value means that the customer is having his or her needs addressed by a company that is working in his or her best interests. There is no way that a company can do this without constantly listening to its customer base. A company should never give the impression that a sale is more important than listening to its customers. When a company listens, a customer gets the favorable impression of being treated like an individual with specific business needs. This goes a long way toward fur- thering the relationship between that customer and the company providing the product or service. T h e b e a u t y o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between customer base and company is that it is totally measurable. The sole criterion of success here is measured by whether the customer continues to come back. Listening to customer needs builds a loyal base. If all of the sudden a com- pany starts getting less repeat business, it probably means that it is not doing as good of a job as it could be of listening to the needs of its base. It is easy for a company to jump to assumptions about its customers, but that only goes so far and usually leads to a disconnect between customer and the company down the road. As it moves forward, the company will be unable to connect with its customers on a larger scale without understanding what their needs are and how to address them. Listening to customers becomes an even more valuable tool as business cli- mates and cycles change. With today's fast-paced business world, this cannot be overlooked. Sometimes we become pigeonholed in our businesses instead of looking outside the business for answers. Often, the answers are right in front of us in the eyes, words and ulti- mately actions of our customers. Eric Priceman is President of Victory, division of Planter Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. In his over three decades in the awards and engraving industry, he has traveled extensively, both domestically and internationally, visiting cus- tomers and suppliers. He is happy to share his unique perspectives of the industry, both past and present. Please feel free to contact Eric by email at ericp@buyvictory.com or by phone at 773-637-7777 ext. 228. A&E

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