There are times when it seems others are out to hurt us. It is typically the competition, and the type of competition varies from organization to organization. For example, a for-profit business has direct and fierce competition, while a charitable organization will have competition as well – such as competing with other charitable organizations for donor funding. Most important and somewhat depressing is that competition is here to stay. The better we do, the more competition we will attract. Some competitors will be totally unethical in their approach, while others will truly have creative and enticing solutions. So what is our best defense? Strong relationships.
It is never right to speak in vain of someone that has done the same to you (unethical competitors). It is also irresponsible to react to every other competitive attempt to penetrate our customer base. We must continue innovating so that we can maintain a steep competitive moat around the organization, but if we try to do too much too fast (in response to competitive pressure), we simply will not do it well and it will likely take us further away from growing and maintaining our customer relationships. When our focus is on the customer; we know and understand what they want; they trust us so much that they often forward us what the competition is pitching rather than respond themselves; and we provide innovative and quality solutions at the appropriate time rather than shooting from the hip.
So here is one simple relationship check up: If a customer receives a call from a competitor who is claiming to give them a superior service, better price, etc., what is the first thing the customer is going to do? If the answer is call us because we are who they trust, then our relationship is very healthy. Alternatively, if we have not been doing our job maintaining customer relationships and meeting new people within each current customer location, they may not know who to call in our organization, or worse – they do not even know who their current provider is. This is relationship failure and good organizations witness it regularly from clients who transition because they were unhappy with a previous provider. Everything can be tracked back to relationships. Even if an organization made a large mistake that negatively impacted a customer, the customer could be retained if the right relationship is in place. Without it, not a chance, and we all know that no organization is perfect. There will be mistakes and relationships will be needed in both the good and the bad times.
The #1 focus in an organization should be it’s customers. Customers are why organizations exist and if we want to keep our customers and grow our customer base each year, strong relationships will do it. When strong relationships exist, customers do not simply leave because someone is pitching a new widget or because someone is claiming to have a price that is slightly below ours. Instead we are their first call because the want to inform us of what is going on. They care about us, just like we care about them.
Regardless of the type of competitor and/or their approach – strong relationships are the most important factor in customer retention and in developing new customers. There is nothing more valuable.