Hanging on the wall in my office is a quote from Jeff Bezos that says, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
For this column, following the theme of “who is my customer?”, I am going to use this quote to explain my thoughts on how we define who our customers are and how we interact with our customers. I am sure the people that know me well and have attended one of our Geek-A-Palooza events are shaking their heads and thinking, “of course she is going to talk about a party!”
Isn’t it interesting to think of our customers as invited guests? As someone in PCB sales, the quick answer to “who is my customer” is anyone that is using printed circuit boards. From there it is traditional to break that down by industry sector, or company size, or technology. Once that scope is narrowed down, marketing and sales craft their message to best reach those defined segments. Sales people identify a list of target companies; find prospects at those companies and work hard to differentiate their technology or services to purchasers of printed circuit boards.
But what if “who is my customer?” was broken down using the criteria/framework of invited guest? Wouldn’t this change the traditional model of sales person trying to win over the prospect to one of two people, or two companies, working together in a mutually beneficial relationship? While we are ruminating over this, lets expand the definition of customer to people that can influence the customer’s decisions, expand our guest list and invite them to the party also.
When you plan an event, who do you invite? People that you enjoy being around, people that you trust people that you respect? Isn’t that who “anyone that uses PCB’s” would want to buy from and as equally important, isn’t that who we would want to sell to? I cannot think of one customer that I have that I would not “invite to a party”. I don’t know if it has been a conscious or subconscious effort, but my customers are people that I truly enjoy working with. There is a mutual respect and trust.
Working with custom products, that often push limits of technology, there are always going to be difficulties and issues that come up, but working with people that you like, trust and respects goes a long way to resolving those issues quickly and easily.
Instead of targeting customers based on industry sector, company size or technology, what if we targeted potential customers based on how they like to do business and how that fits with how we like to do business?
There are customers that like detailed negotiations and sales people that thrive on negotiating price and terms. There are customers that don’t spend time on those details and want to work with someone they can trust to run with the program and handle the details… and there are sales people that prefer being a trusted resource and not having to negotiate all the finer points. There are customers that view business transactionally, and suppliers that do the same. There are customers that build long-term relationships, and suppliers that see beyond short-term issues and operate with the long-term goals in mind.
Hosting a party
The host of a party is ultimately responsible for making sure that their guests are enjoying themselves. Isn’t that what we want for our customers too? We want to them to have a favorable, positive experience and want to do business with us again. Have you ever hosted a party hoping your guests would think it was average? Of course not!
Have you ever used a football party as a reason to go get that big screen TV? How about served your guests fancy hordevours, butler style instead of a traditional buffet? Maybe live music at the party as a treat when people aren’t expecting it? For all of you Geek-A-Palooza attendees, how about the ring toss as an unexpected party game? Aren’t these added touches similar to the added value services we like to provide to our customers? Do the added value services we provide add to the overall customer experience? How can we do better?
In the PCB industry, how do we ensure our customers have an unexpectedly positive experience? It is very easy to focus on product, but for this discussion, let’s take that out of the equation and assume that high quality product is delivered on time. What are the other intangible things that are important to our customers that could make their job a little easier and provide a chance to really wow them?
The success of any event lies in the details. Do we take enough time to dig into the details with our customers? What are the different touchpoints that our customers have with us? What is important to them? What is the message that we send? Do we make it easy for our customers to share the things that are important to them? Do we put the same level of thought and planning into our customers experience that would into hosting and planning an event?
Isn’t our marketing program similar to inviting them to the party? All of our communication, from advertising to our website, to customer service, should be consistent and engaging, exactly like an event invitation would be.
Working in an industry that manufactures custom products, it is natural to place the focus on the product and technology. But, we can’t forget the people and that business is built by people interacting with each other. The next time your customer places an order will they experience, “the beer is in the fridge, help yourself, I’ll be on the couch watching the game” or will they have an unexpectedly positive experience that they talk about for days to come?
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