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Connecting with Customers Especially Important Right Now

May 12, 2009

It was a pleasure yesterday to take my car to a small repair shop that runs on high levels of customer service. The father-son team that runs the place competes against all sizes; in fact, I would guess most of their competitors are much larger. But I've known many to refer friends to the shop. In fact, I was referred myself, and will no doubt return the next time something threatens to fall off my car.
I left with a fixed car, a sense of trust and more money than expected left in my pocket, a rare combination these days on the way out of an auto repair shop. It was a nice reminder of the importance of a positive customer experience each and every time a customer sets foot in your shop.
While customer service is important in both boom and bust times, it could be argued that now is an especially good time to connect with customers, ensure you are meeting their needs and understand what they find valuable about the service you provide to them. As Mike Emerson of Indian River Consulting Group recently wrote in MDM (Align Selling Resources to the Market), customers ascribe different value to the services provided by wholesale distributors. "Yet oftentimes distributors offer the same level of service to everyone." Some customers look for product availability, extended credit terms, single-source procurement or frequent delivery. Some actually just look at price. Knowing this will help you serve them better, Emerson writes.
Many distributors big and small are taking a closer look at the strength of their customer relationships. For example, electrical distributor Rexel earlier this month released a statement saying it is launching "Customer Connect" in May 2009 in its Northern Continental Europe region.
Rexel reported its 1,200 sales reps and local managers would visit more than 30,000 customers. The distributor explained: "Promoting the added value and services offered by the Group, they will introduce network specific sales programs customized to their local market. In the current challenging environment, the initiative also aims to strengthen customer focus and present new solutions available to aid development." Those new solutions include new energy-saving and other green products.
What are you doing to strengthen your customer focus during these tough times?

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