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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Customers, What do they really think about your company

Customer feedback or not

I have myself lost track slightly of my customers in times gone past, once the PO is placed and the Invoice paid it's on to the next fire to fight, funding event, board meeting, flight to catch, in a small early stage company 2 to 3 employees, it is hard to follow up regularly, if your cutomer based is more that 40 companies, you end up priotitiseing the customer base and chaseing up the next order, you never take too much time to get to know what your customers think about you, what you could do better, and where there buisness is going etc, these things are taken care off when you grow and can afford a biz dep person, but until you get there , it's up to you. I myself spend time now and make it a point to touch bases on the phone with the main customers regularly every couple of weeks..and the rest by email every 4 to 6 weeks, I have found that this has improved the business and customer retention.

This article below details customer feed back questions, some you should know the answers too anyway, but others are interesting it can be found on the Bnet UK webpage>

10 Customer Feedback Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

Lots of organisations invest a lot of time, money and effort in getting customer feedback. I also think that lots of organisations waste lots of time, money and effort in getting customer feedback.

Why? They ask the wrong questions, they ask lots of questions, but don’t actually listen, or they listen to the answers and then do nothing about what they hear.

I’m all for getting customer feedback –- it’s a great source of ideas, opportunities, improvements, and it demonstrates to your customers you care, provided you do listen and then take action.

Too many organisations simply get boxes ticked, go through the motions, and ask questions that don’t make them too uncomfortable.

So, just to get you thinking, here are 10 questions you might want to consider asking your customers that challenge the status quo and possibly improve your performance, attitude and relationships.

  1. What attracted you to us originally? This helps get a view of how you are seen in the market place and what are the things that appeal to your customers.
  2. What would you do if we weren’t here? This may give an insight into the value they place on you as a supplier — Would they actually notice if you disappeared?
  3. Can you name one particular individual who has impressed you in our organisation? This highlights your customer champions, and maybe some of your unsung heroes. If they can’t name anyone, what does that say about the way your people interact with your customers?
  4. What one thing could we do better? Just one thing -– it may highlight their priorities and key issues.
  5. Why do you buy from us? This highlights your strengths –- some of which, you may not be aware of. Be careful how you phrase this one. You might sound as if you’re doubting yourselves.
  6. If our business was the best in the world, what would it look like? This one stretches the imagination, and even though you may not be able to deliver exactly what they say, it may give you a few ideas about what they see as important.
  7. Name one thing that we do or don’t do that irritates you –- The key is doing something about it.
  8. Who can we learn from? This helps you identify who your customers see as role models, and might just point something out that’s not happening in your industry you could learn from.
  9. What would you say to someone else who asked you about us? Their initial response to this is often a revealing one.
  10. What is the one thing we should never stop doing? This one tells you what they really value about you.

You may feel you can’t ask these questions to your customers. That’s not a problem, as long as you can find some questions that you can ask.

Article by Andy Hanselman he is an independent consultant specialising in improving business competitiveness. He has authored two books: ‘Thinking in 3D – Creating A Business That’s Dramatically And Demonstrably Different’, and ‘Revolutionise The Profitability Of Your Business’, and is currently writing his third, ‘Maximising Customer Relationships’.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Negotiation:- Make or Brake the business ( deals and wheels)

Negotiation:- Make or Brake the business:

Deals and wheels

I have been absent for a while from blogging , I have been joining the other 8% of the population in the UK who are looking for there next job. I did see a post on negotiating deals and it struck a cord with me, I remembered how it was always hard to get the techie guys to negotiate prices with suppliers they just accepted the deal and cost the company. I am not saying that everyone should negotiate the cost, but it is a good habit to get everyone to participate in who is dealing with a supplier or customer, build the culture.

I used to ask the Tech guys did they always take first offer when buying a car? it is a life skill that will stand you and your company in good stead for the future. I have negotiated with the 800lb gorillas, www.tsmc.com , www.umc.com , www.smics.com ,www.appliedmaterials.com LDK, REC to name a few, and following the golden rules of strategic supplier negotiating I have managed to get better service and pricing, a lower price may not be the best way forward, but better terms, free design help, failure analysis to mention a few all can be bundled as a better deal.

These are the few gems I picked from the post by Martin Gaston on BNET
( http://blogs.bnet.co.uk/sterling-performance/2010/05/04/a-bluffer%E2%80%99s-guide-to-negotiating/)

1. Tell it like it is

If you’re sending mixed messages to your supplier, they won’t know you’re unhappy. Be clear about what you can afford and what you expect. If you think a quote is too high, say so. Don’t be afraid to be honest.

If you’re unprepared to buy at a certain price then tell them you’re not interested and then return to the negotating table to work out a better deal.

2. Do your homework

If you’ve been dealing with a supplier for a long time, have you actually sat down and considered the costs of switching to another business? Are there hidden costs to switching that your supplier’s all too aware of — or could you do better with another business. Knowledge can be powerful — and may be all you need to get a deal re-evaluated.

If you’re looking to renegotiate a contract, do your homework and demonstrate you’re already aware of the what’s on offer in your market and of the alternatives available. If you can demonstrate where your supplier is falling down on service, they’ll be forced to do better or risk losing your business.

3. Be realistic

It’s natural to want to want as much for as little as possible, but it’s also worth thinking about whether or not your demands are realistic. The economic climate might require that you cut costs, but it’s also important carefully to maintain service levels.

If you go into a negotiation with an unreasonable set of demands, suppliers may see your business as more trouble than it’s worth. What is essential? What can you live without? Answer these questions before you speak to your supplier, or you may feel railroaded.

4. It’s about compromise

You might be tempted to walk away from an unfair quote, but instead of closing down the negotiations entirely, think about what you’d be prepared to compromise to hit your financial targets.

It might sound obvious, but negotiations are about essentially about give and take — if you’re unprepared to give anything up, you and your supplier lose out.

5. Say what you mean

… and mean what you say. There’s no point in threatening to ditch a software provider to go open-source if you have absolutely no intention of doing it, for example — it’ll just make you look silly in the eyes of your current suppliers.

Be honest, upfront and consistent with your message then you’ll find yourself cultivating better results and working relationships with your essential suppliers.

I hope this helps.....

and any leads for a new job for myself will be rewarded :)

Have a good week