As of 2009, Snowbound has been around over thirteen years. Some of our customers date that back to that first year. How did we keep those customers all these years in such a demanding marketplace? It’s not hard to explain – it’s based mutual respect, trust and understanding our customer.
To start, you ask questions! Without an in-depth free flowing question-based discussion there is no way you can understand your customer’s problem and even less chance of providing a solution. That information allows you, as the vendor, to recommend the best choice to the customer, even if that best choice does not include your technology. With that kind of understanding, and applying the industry expertise you have, you are in a position to provide the customer what they need while watching out for the intangibles they may not understand.
One other thing we’ve found that’s critical to maintaining a healthy business relationship is understanding the customer’s expectations and presumptions, even if partially unspoken, to minimize surprises. For example, a customer wants to perform mass file conversion and asks about the accuracy of the process…but they may not ask how long the conversion will take. Industry knowledge will tell us that the conversion of 10 million color documents will take a while, and they might prefer to use our UNIX based products rather than our Java products to get that 3x-5x faster throughput. For that customer, when performance wasn’t enough for their increasing business, we swapped out the Java for UNIX. An easy switch and it solved their most critical problem.
Other situations occur when a customer doesn’t take time to understand the nuances of document display and therefore creates images for display which are faint, grainy or just plain hard to read. Then the dreaded support message comes in – “your product is producing bad images – you need to fix it now”. In the original discussion, the wise sales engineer should have made a point to ferret out whether the customer understood technical issues with regards to anti-aliasing and resolution (critical for optimal display). A little education could have avoided that support call. (Yes, it’s in the manual, but … .) So we educate the customer, offer assistance and try to add some automation to our products to reduce the risk of error.
Rushing through to the sale always worries me. If you take time to understand the customer’s needs and set proper expectations, the customer will succeed and your relationship will last. If you’re in the game for the long-term, it’s all about the success of your customers.