Are there times that you don’t feel appreciated enough by your customers? That they don’t seem to make agreements with you a priority? There might be a big chance that you are too customer-focused! Of course you want to take the burden away from them, take work off their hands and offer the best solution. But by doing this, you are also depriving them of their influence….
Influence and passiveness
As people, we have a shared need to have a certain amount of influence on a situation. If we don’t feel don’t have an influence, it could lead to frustration and passive behaviour. We either feel like we are wasting energy or we pull away. This is something we see happening in many organisations going through change.
The same thing can happen within relationship to your customer. The problem is that this is often overlooked and perceived (misinterpreted) passiveness as being a dominant or demanding attitude. We tend to accept this behaviour in fear of damaging our relationship with the customer.
When a customer feels deprived of influence its passiveness can show in a way he or she will focus only on results, won’t have time for meetings, won’t understand if unforeseen circumstances occur like extra hours or giving an ‘okay’ on something without making the effort of knowing what it is about: ‘i’m sure you know what’s best’.
Total responsibility will be on your plate with the consequence of an imbalanced working relationship: you will be the one constantly making steps to keep your customer satisfied. Result? It is going to offer feedback and they won’t be open to it.
Enlarging your customer involvement
In a strong relationship between you and your customer it wil be equal. Your customer will think along, provide input and you will be proper sparing partners. By allowing your customer more influence, you will enlarge its feeling of involvement. It will be easier to serve him and he will understand if things differ from the original agreements.
How does it sound? Enlarge your customer involvement in 3 steps:
- Keep in contact regularly. Especially at the start of your relationship, it is very important to be noticed by your customer; this happens after approximately 7 times of active contact. By calling or meeting face-to-face you will achieve this sooner than by email. Use these moments to build a relationship on trust, not only based on content.
- Provide many updates. Not only when a decision needs to be made or when the agreement needs to be adjusted. An update given when all is going well has a huge effect and we often tend to forget that. Just letting them know what you’ve been up to; it will give your customer a sense of influence. Be aware: make sure he or she truly understands you. Divide complex information in small steps and send a recap by email with headlines on issues discussed.
- Ask for input. This is an area of great influence. Don’t just make a decision but clarify it and ask your customers opinion. Even when you don’t really need the input. Why? It is important that your customer understands your work process, that he or she is aware of possible risks and is allowed to share their thoughts. At the same time, it is okay to be clear towards your customers when you need something from them in order to perform your job well. Let your customer feel how important this is to you and especially why it is.
How can you give your customer more influence?