Our customers want the same things we want – quality products, attentive customer service and a collaborative partnership. We all think that’s what we’re delivering … but is it? With the ever-faster pace of business, and the increasing demands on our time and resources, it’s not good enough to be as good as we were yesterday … we need to be better!
Customer Service: When managing a team of customer service representatives, one of the constant points of discussion in nearly every meeting was how long it should take to respond to a customer request. 10 years ago, my answer was to respond within 24 hours of the original email or phone request. 5 years ago, I directed the team to get in touch with the customer before the end of the same day the request was made. Today, we need to respond within the hour! If we don’t have the complete answer, at least our customer will know we are working for them, and they can check that request off their list.
Quality Products: A diverse assortment of well-made products and value-added services at a fair price (please note: I said “fair” price, not the “cheapest” price), should be the least our customers have a right to expect. In the promotional products industry, there are lots of inexpensive, well-made items that can be valuable tools for increasing brand awareness. On the other hand, there are also many non-compliant, low quality products available that shouldn’t be part of any corporate branding strategy. Our customers should be able to trust that we can advise them accordingly. When I think now about the rust-prone, poorly constructed Chevy Vega my father bought for the “kid car” back in the 70’s, I think of everything bad that eventually happened to GM. That’s not the kind of brand awareness any company is striving for.
Collaborative Partnership: Understanding your customer is the first step in maintaining a relationship that builds into a partnership. Get to know their audience; recognize their pain points; and proactively offer creative suggestions for their next project – whether it be a digital brand wrap on a Fender guitar to announce a new store opening, or a bank service that offers check deposits via your smartphone. Our customers expect, and deserve, a more holistic approach to the partnership. Treat the partnership as a complete system, rather than just a sum of the individual parts … or more simply put, look beyond just what you sell, and understand how you can add value to the company as a whole.
Our customers want exactly what we expect from our vendor partners. It only makes sense to give it to them!