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William Tincup on the value of great customers

Today's guest post comes from our board member, William Tincup.  William is a champion for customer-centricity in the human capital software space.  He challenges vendors like us to do well by doing better for customers.  At Kronos, we make significant investments in building solid products and providing the right services to help customers deploy and use those products. More importantly, we ask all of our employees to put customers at the center of their efforts.  We listen and learn from our customers every day - and we grow better as a result.

To William's point, what our customers say about us in the market is far more important that what we say about ourselves - as many businesses have learned the hard way on opinion sites like Yelp, Consumer reports, Angie's List, etc.  What are some of your vendor relationship highs and lows?

They say that the three prongs to building a sustainable business are: (1) repeatable processes; (2) recurring revenue; and (3) referenceable customers. These are affectionately known as the three R's.

  1. Is obvious to most operations folks
  2. Is obvious to most financial folks
  3. Should be obvious to everyone but in actuality it isn't

Great customers should fit you like a glove. Like any relationship where things are just natural. They don't look for ways to make your life harder and you don't look for ways to bilk them. Great customers should push you... and you should push them back.  The relationship you have with great customers is one built on the pillars of: communication, trust and respect. Without these three things you don't have a great customer relationship. It might be good... but it isn't great. Hell, it might even be terrible.

So how do we work with only great customers? Easy. We need to know the difference between a loving relationship and one that is devoid of love. We need NOT take on business that is outside our core values or worse... business that is in direct conflict with the pillars stated above.

What I'm asking you to do is simple: Say “no” more often. Say “no” to prospects that exhibit behaviors that are inconsistent with how you aspire to be treated. Don't rush to get in bed with someone who will eventually rip your heart out and/or create cancer within your company.

When you find a customer who has the potential to be a great customer, go deep. Be vulnerable. Be more transparent. Stop looking at the proposal and/or contract and really listen to their needs. Then, under-promise and over-deliver.  Keenly manage expectations - always.  And, focus them and yourself on relentless and clear communication, and bulletproof trust and respect at all times and in all ways.

Also, more often than not we tend to over-emphasize planning. Truth is... things happen. And that is life in the big city. What we should focus on is how we respond when things happen rather than focusing on 9000 potential ways that things could happen.  Character is born out of how you respond to adversity.  True in life, true when building great customer relationships.

Lastly, businesses fail for a number of reasons, but I believe more than any other single reason businesses fail because they are doing business with people who pay them BUT don't love them. Money in this instance is just a sad veneer. The good stuff is on the inside: customer love, where you love them and they love you right back.

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