7 Essential Tips for Building Trusted Customer Partnerships

At 1E, our support, professional services, and customer success teams work together to implement Software Lifecycle Automation in some of the world’s largest organizations and complex environments. How exactly do we achieve these feats of IT wizardry? Its all about attitude, what we call “1E Sunshine.”

The core of our customer success mission is to build a rapport, become a trusted advisor, and eliminate long term problems before they fester and become unnecessary customer escalations. We don’t ascribe to a get-in and get-out mentality and when we form partnerships with our customers, we see impressive results. Here are 1E’s 7 Essential Tips for Building Trusted Customer Partnerships…

Develop a Trusted Rapport

Helping the customer to see and create a vision for future success includes more than selling software and solutions. Working together with the customer to craft a solution that fits specific needs and adapting solutions to meet company policy and achieve long term goals is key. When the customer is comfortable with discussing the issues and problems, brainstorming and thinking out loud whilst seeking guidance, the basis for a trusted advisor is built. Building a trusted rapport with a customer begins with becoming a valued resource for advice both tactical and strategic. The process takes time, due diligence and the extra effort to be responsive, provide sound advice, following up on even minor items and going the extra mile required to build a trusted customer relationship.

Be Responsive, Time is of the Essence

When a customer contact makes an inquiry, asks for guidance or even a simple how-to question, a quick response, if just to let the customer know you have received the question, lets the customer know that you are paying attention. Making a customer feel important will pay off in the long run and will contribute to building a trusted rapport.

Listen, Really Listen, Even in Uncomfortable Conversations

Let your customer contact vent or voice opinions even if some of the comments are borderline or full on negative. Resist the urge to interrupt, become defensive or give the impression you are not paying attention. Most of all maintain your composure if a customer becomes irrational, upset or angry. Dr. Mark Goulston states in his book, Talking to Crazy, that “stripping you of your poise is among an irrational person’s best weapons, and refusing to surrender your poise is one of your best defenses.”

Ask probing questions to get to the root of the issue. It may turn out to be a simply a bad day or a bad experience. Asking questions will demonstrate you are genuinely concerned about understanding the issues. In some cases it may help to offer several solution alternatives to get at the real reasons behind any given customer problem or concern. Another quotable from George Bernard Shaw, “I learned long ago, never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” Always maintain your poise even in uncomfortable conversations.

Provide Sound Advice and Guidance

Do your research prior to any follow up call or meeting. Bookmark links to the support portal, support forum, confluence, blogs, etc., for easy access to technical knowledge base. Familiarize yourself with the industry standards and best practices to make sure you lay the foundation and can anticipate any technical questions.

Reach out to others for help or input as needed. Let the customer know we have a wealth of in-house knowledge to draw from.

Consider the options, brainstorming with customer counterparts promotes creativity as the everyone is willing to voice even the craziest ideas that they might otherwise be left unobserved. Perhaps the craziest ideas are not so crazy when considered from a different perspective or viewpoint. At the very least, the current line of ideas and thinking might be improved upon for a stronger solution in the long run.

Presentation is important. Convey any advice or proposed solution from a variety of angles for full understanding. Think of different ways to articulate an idea or use cases to illustrate the point.

Be sure to speak the customers language based on the industry. Take time to learn nomenclature that may be common for the industry to eliminate any misunderstanding or coming across like you cannot relate to the customer issues. Familiarizing yourself with common industry terms will come in handy during conversations while helping customer solve business problems and will build the customers confidence in your ability to provide guidance.

Follow Up on Minor Items, Thoughts or Comments

Remember things that were mentioned in conversation and follow up on any questions or clarifications needed.

Follow up on items such as outstanding support cases, hotfixes in progress or feature requests by the customer. Following up on these items may take time and effort but the small things add up to building trust and help to prevent upset/aggravated customers and escalations in the long run and ultimately lead to follow on sales.

Go the Extra Mile

It’s friendships and acquaintances that endure. Depending on the customer, you might share a personal experience, what you did on the weekend or something to break the ice. Never invade another’s personal space but stay open for lighthearted conversation as a stuffy conversation never leaves a good impression. As Maya Angelo said: “People may not remember exactly what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Laying a Foundation for Customer References

Building a foundation of trust and becoming a trusted advisor with the customer, providing thought leadership for the customer’s success as a business and recognizing the individual contributors within their own company will make it easier to ask for and receive customer references. Customer references built on a partnership will benefit both the customer and the vendor by leading to more innovative and creative vision for future development.

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