The Customer Relationship Fixx
Last weekend I was mowing my lawn. This is not a small job, mind you. When it’s humid and wet, the grass grows like it’s undergoing the genesis effect from Star Trek III - The Search for Spock. An obscure reference? Perhaps. But for those who’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. The grass grows so fast, it’s like the mower doesn’t even have a blade. Trees sprout from the ground, and mountains burst skyward, obscuring the sun.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The point is, there’s a helluva lot of grass, and it takes awhile to mow the whole yard. So I crank up my iPod and jam out to some randomly shuffled tunes to pass the hours. Occasionally, one of the songs triggers a train of thought that leads to something valuable. Hall and Oates laid some serious business wisdom on me not too long ago. This weekend, I got a lesson in customer relationship management from The Fixx.
I’m telling you, these musicians get people.
In their 1983 hit “One Thing Leads to Another,” which contains an amazingly hip rhythm guitar lick by the way, the band lays out the framework for an amazingly direct and simple approach to customer relationship management. Granted, I could have been hallucinating from the heat, but it seemed to make a lot of sense. It goes a little something like this:
“Do what you say. Say what you mean. One thing leads to another.”
Elegantly simple, brilliantly true. If you’re honest and consistent, if you listen more than you speak, and if you do what you say you’ll do, you’ll build trust. Once you have trust, one project leads to another...and another, and another.
CBS MoneyWatch reporter Geoffrey James recently posted an article outlining seven rules that you MUST follow consistently if you want to build strong customer relationships. You can see The Fixx’s advice sprinkled on top of numbers 1, 3, 5 and 7. These rules are adapted from a conversation that James had with Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge in Business.
Here they are:
Believe that relationships are important. People can tell if you're really serious about building relationships or just going through the motions. If you don't really want to have a relationship, don't bother pretending, 'cause it won't work.
Be curious about your customers. People are drawn to those who show a true interest in them. Curiosity gives you the opportunity to learn new things and make new connections and to figure out new ways to help.
Behave in a consistent manner. A customer's ability to trust is dependent upon your ability to show the customer that you can be counted upon. When a customer can predict your behavior, that customer is more likely to want a strong relationship.
Focus on the relationship not the sale. When it comes to relationships, the messenger (who you are) is much more important than the message (what you have to say.) So make sure that you're keeping the relationship in the forefront, not what you're selling.
Seek for the deeper truth. Find out if you really have something that can help the customer. Discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Don't be afraid to admit to your firm's weaknesses, when appropriate.
Keep an open mind. Walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your offering, and the customer will become close-minded in return. Be open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere.
Conduct a real dialog. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a sales call. You should be listening to the customer at least as much as you're talking, and probably much more. And the dialog should be about business issues, not a chitchat.
All of that from an incredibly hooky 80’s pop song. Nice.