Would you recognize the signals your customers are sending right now that say “your company is irrelevant”?
Not long ago, a friend of mine had been trying to schedule a recurring meeting with a Top 3 Telecom provider (let’s call them T3T). At that time the relationship was stable and healthy so the proposed agenda was:
- Staying informed of T3T business initiatives
- Helping address the customer business challenges
- Soliciting feedback from T3T
Even though these were mutually beneficial discussion points, T3T declined the invitation with a repeated refrain of “if we need you, we’ll call you.”
WARNING: with that response, my friend realized his company was no longer relevant to T3T.
Here are three signs that your company is longer viewed as relevant to your customers:
- Crisis interactions only – have you been relegated “to speak when spoken to?” As the example above shows, when you interact sporadically with a customer, they are sending a signal that either (a) you aren’t providing value or (b) they don’t understand your value.
- Emails and phone calls unanswered – how many unsolicited emails and phone calls do you get each day? Dozens? Which ones get a response? While “advances” in communication have made talking to customers easier and less costly those same benefits mean that customers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of outreach efforts which make it difficult to discern value from noise. Are your calls considered noise??
- Lagging customer engagement – what happens when key management sponsors start opting out of your meetings? In the above example this is exactly what occurred – managers stopped attending.
Irrelevance arises from the fact (or perception) that a company no longer provides value.
The story-line changed with (you guessed it) a crisis. The company missed a key deliverable for T3T and stumbled badly after which T3T managers (a) decided they “needed” my friend, (b) requested a face-to-face meeting, and (c) demanded a “get well” plan. Fortunately, my friend had the good sense to “demand” senior management participation from both companies. When the companies met, three things happened.
- My friend apologized on behalf of his company, explained what had failed, the resolution, and how they had revised their processes to prevent further occurrences. NET: problem solved
- The T3T telecom executive shared other business issues his company faced
- My friend suggested a handful of ways to help T3T. Subsequently T3T requested three multi-million dollar proposals!
To her credit, the T3T executive recognized the value (and relevance) of a partner who had previously executed well and who was able to respond to challenges rapidly and positively.
The pivot point is to ensure that customers are aware of the value in our products and services. If you don’t know, or can’t articulate that value, or if your customer doesn’t know… take Janet Jackson’s song to heart and determine the business value your company provides. Want a good 1st step? Try this Wharton article.