Know your customers as people first; customers second

Evans Glass Co. has a longtime supplier that has changed names and ownership many times during the last 30 years. Their previous salesman lived in another city, yet called us and/or called upon us regularly. We developed a friendship. We knew about each others' hobbies, families and favorite sports teams. Their present salesman lives in the same community as our company. Yet he only calls upon us once a quarter or after we have contacted him for a price or to answer a question. Evans Glass Co. was important to the previous salesman. Evans Glass Co. is not important to the current salesman. The supplier is receiving less business as a result.

I cite this as an example. All business is conducted because of human relationships. Now let’s turn the table. How does Evans Glass Co., or your company, treat its customers? We must define who our best customers are.  Evans Glass Co. uses these guidelines:

  • Which customers give us repeat business for reasons other than low price?
  • Which customers give us the most referrals?

These are the only two judgments we use for a preferred customer classification. 

We pay close attention to these customers. We do not take them for granted. We determine their preferred method of communication and use it. For example, do they like telephone calls instead of e-mails? When we make it comfortable for the customer to buy from us, we eliminate competition.

We discover their likes, dislikes, hobbies, birthday, anniversary and pet peeves. A dozen Pro V1 before a golf tournament may be a good idea. A recommendation of a good restaurant at their vacation destination can help them remember you fondly. A birthday card is usually welcome. Send a get-well card to someone’s spouse when needed. Possibly the best way to keep the customer is to refer them business.

In this economic climate, it is imperative that we work smarter to keep our best customers. If your customer exercises regularly, don’t take doughnuts. Don’t take them to a tofu restaurant if they like meat and potatoes. All of these are very elementary, but often forgotten. I have been training to run 56 miles, yet we have a supplier that continues to bring doughnuts and pastries that go mostly uneaten. 

In summary, know your customers as people first,, customers second. If you know them as people first, the relationship will go well beyond that of customer-supplier. Appreciate them; communicate with them; help them grow; and they will help you grow.

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville   

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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