Three companions of every client manager
Have you ever wondered what power decides the success and survival of every business? I believe it is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and building good relationships with clients is an indispensable part of this process.
I met Ms. Phuong Anh on a glorious Saturday in a café nearby her office. It was my luck to have a conversation with her about building good relationship with strict clients. Phuong Anh is the Vice President of LV Corporation, a company famous for providing software and technical system solutions for many businesses in Vietnam. With more than 20 years working as a bridge between the company and clients, she has various experiences in building and maintaining good relationship with them.
Phuong Anh told me clients were one of the main players in effective Customer Relationship Management so I decided to start the conversation with the question if there were easy or tough clients. Phuong Anh smiled and gave me a surprising answer “Unfortunately, there are no easy clients out there!” She explained, when clients come to your company and spend a huge amount of money for your service, they seek the best; therefore, they are very tough and demanding. Phuong Anh implied building and maintaining good relationship with tough clients is like conquering mountains, it takes time and effort. However, future managers should not be so worried since with three best companions from Phuong Anh, you can rock your climb.
“UNDERSTAND YOUR CLIENTS’ BUSINESS FIRST!”
Fournier et al. (1998) claimed deep understand of how products and services be used in customers’ context and daily life is the backbone of good relationship. Phuong Anh gave two reasons for this. The first one is it impresses your clients and makes them believe in your service ability. Hence, they listen to you more. The second reason is not all of clients understand what they need or know problems they are facing and these things explain why they need us to give them best advice and solutions. Phuong Anh emphasized “Once you fail to know your clients’ business inside out, the following process would fail. Your solutions would not meet their specific needs, your software would be released and not help them solve any of their problems. Consequently, they would never come back”. Another reason is you can both increase your sales and cope with their specific demands (Aspden 2012). Phuong Anh added “You must know your client as if you used to work in their business” – in which she meant we have to know every single thing about them including their visions, working styles and process, operation, demands and problems. Only when we have a deep understanding of their company can we be confident to give them the right advice. This is also what she reminds her subordinates every day before working with clients and carrying out the projects with them.
“HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY”
Trust is the builder of customer relationship management and honesty is the core of trust. (Sharma et al. 1999). Phuong Anh mentioned trust in two dimensions. In term of suggesting products and service, at the very first time, clients sometimes assume that we want to offer them products with high price to charge more money. Therefore, it is necessary to give them the true reasons why these products and service can help them and even tell them the possible faults. This is especially true for technology products like software: they are all tiny errors; yet no client understands this common problem because they always look for the perfect products and service. It dawned on me that her advice is applicable in communication industry. Launching an IMC campaign and especially events, we have to predict many possible risks may happen and we have to discuss with clients. After taking this step, she suggested we should ensure clients that we make our best to minimize the impact of the possible faults and prevent it altogether if possible. The most important point she addressed is “Never overstate your products or promise what you cannot do, they are the killers of trust and relationship with your clients!” She clarified no one is able to deceive clients, once they apply bad products or solutions, they will know it sooner or later and it is better for us to inform them beforehand.
“GREAT WORK IS THE BASE OF GREAT RELATIONSHIP”
In his book about client service, Solomon (2008) believed great relationship outweighs great work and he stated “A great work wins business, a great relationship keeps it”. However, Phuong Anh held a different viewpoint, she believed great work is the base of great relationship, in other words, great work is the very initial step for a good relationship between a company and its clients. She explained that relationship makes the deal comfortable, but no normal work satisfies our clients. When they are unsatisfied relationship does not help. ‘This is a business world where benefits should be placed first.’-she emphasized.
With these three companions, Phuong Anh succeeds in building good relationship with most of her clients and won over her toughest client, Mr. Minh Hung, the manager of a well-known XYZ Power Company. He demanded the impossible, perfect software without errors. He also involved in every steps of installation process which clients rarely did. At that time, she admitted the drawback in the early stage, explained in details why this happened and promised to give him best possible products and minimized the errors. The installation and running of the program is seriously cared for and checked from start to end. Hence, she called frequently to make sure that the program works well. Completely satisfied with the work, his company has used LV’s products for more 8 consecutive years and more importantly, he introduced the company to his partnerships. What does the company get after building good relationship with clients? The answer is simple: they earn customer retention and customers loyalty which is considered the outcomes of effective customer relationship management (Casul 2013). Moreover, Blattberg et al. (2001) highlighted it is the customer service and relationship that impacts customers’ repurchase and it gives you another bonus, the boost of sales.
Although there are three advices, they share only one essence every client must bear in mind, always put the benefits of your clients at the top, not our company. She said practicing these tips and putting effort in the process, we hold the backbone of our business and Phuong Anh claimed proudly “When your clients come back to you after 16 years or work with you in 8 years, you finally reach the summit of lofty mountains.”
The picture was drawn by me
Proof of Life taken by Phuong (2013)
Word count: 1,100 words
*Client Minh Hung and XYZ company, Actual name withheld.
Interviewed by Nguyen Ha Linh Trang-s3357769
Aspden, L 2012, ‘Engage with your customers to boost sales’, Contract Flooring Journal, p.43.
Blattberg, RC, Get, G & Thomas, JS 2001, Customer equity: Building and managing relationships as valuable assets. Harvard Business Press
Casul, M 2013, ‘Lecture 2: Customer Relationship Management’, lecture notes distributed in COMM2384 Client Management at RMIT University, Vietnam, February 2013.
Fournier, S, Dobscha, S & Mick, DG 1998,‘The Premature Death of Relationship Marketing’ Harvard business review 76, no.1, pp.42-51.
Sharma, N & Patterson, PG 1999, ’The impact of communication effectiveness and service quality on relationship commitment in consumer, professional services’, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 13, Issue 2, pp.151 – 170.
Solomon (2008), R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kalan Publishing, NY.