How can a company repair the relationship and business with an important business customer that it has let down due to problems such as product availability or falling product sales through lack of support? I suppose that some organisations may take the view that these things just happen and the customer will have to accept it but more enlightened, customer-focused managers seek to turn these situations around by understanding how they can repair the damage that has been caused to both the business and the relationship with these customers.
I am very lucky to have a number of clients who trust me to ‘help out’ in these types of situations and there is a simple approach that has proven very effective when the customer is open to at least look at the options. The first step is to understand in a meeting with the supplier’s management the overall key account strategy, current marketing initiatives and the ideal outcome. I then work with the key account manager responsible for the customer to get their ‘on the ground’ perspective of the key account, its business and people and then we decide as a small project team what type of intervention could best work to increase sales for the customer and supplier. The next step is for me to contact the customer, typically by phone to understand their views on the business and their needs and ideas for business development and we then plan an event which could be a combination of a workshop with a tailored supplier/retailer promotion or a practical action such as a review of the retailer’s merchandising etc. The event is then delivered by myself (and usually attended by the key account manager) where my role is the objective outsider who is facilitating and practically helping both parties to gain from the project.
After this initial step the key account manager can usually take back the reins and start to work on implementing the tangible plans and actions that have emerged from the event whilst I as part of the project team may be able to help spread the learnings from this work within the retailer’s business or around the supplier’s organisation.
Research has shown that if you can solve a customer’s problem for them they are often more satisfied than if the problem had never occured. It’s definitely worth looking therefore at business building initiatives that can both solve problems and renew damaged relationships.