Daily, we have numerous opportunities to interact with customers. Since the goal, realized or not, is to satisfy our customer’s needs or desires, we must first determine who is a customer and what is their need. From a personal perspective, our life is filled with individuals or groups who are at times customers. Our spouse, family, friends, neighbors, well you get the picture. In business it’s more complicated because there are often levels of customers, starting with a retail buyer, for instance, all the way to the final consumer. In between, there can be any number of intermediate customers.

And what do our customers have to say? Interactions between you and your customer can run the gamut from a benign conversation about last night’s baseball scores to a hardball discussion about being continued as a supplier and everything in between. There are times when our customer may be pleased with our performance and says so. Quite frequently, the customer wants something from us. The problem here is in the what of the message and how it is conveyed. Listening carefully for the meaning behind the words is critical in making the relationship a success.

It is often difficult to express consumer concerns in a manner which is both clear and to the point. This is particularly true when delivering criticism or negative news. For example, losing a supplier contract does not occur on the day you hear the bad news. The contract has been lost over a period of time. Interactions between you and your customer probably included messages that there were problems, but were you listening?

For instance, look at hidden messages in a discussion regarding the cost of handling your company’s product(s). Initially you might think that the buyer is looking for an increase his profit margin but the real issue could deal with product quality issues. Having to resolve final consumer complaints can be expensive and detrimental to a company’s reputation. Alternately, the cost discussion might revolve around the desire for a price reduction, a special deal or promotion. What you might not recognize as an issue, could be the reason for your customer not carrying any additional products from your line or being dropped as a supplier. Hearing what is being said doesn’t mean that you will automatically do what is asked. Rather hearing the request allows you get more facts and make an informed decision.

Senior Business Consultants, LLC