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Communication Coach: 3 pillars of customer relationships

October 31, 2018 -  By
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Photo: iStock.com/phototechno

Photo: iStock.com/phototechno

The landscaping industry has experienced some dazzling changes in the last 20 years, and much of it would have been impossible without the help of technology.

Those of us who were early adopters got some easy wins with it. No more. Now technology is a must-have just to stay competitive and squeeze more profit out of every sales dollar.

So what’s next?

As businesses optimize their systems, with or without technology, the challenge is still the same—making customers happy.

I believe future industry innovators and disruptors will discover how to transform and redefine customer relationships into something extraordinary.

3 pillars of customer relationships

When confronted by an audience member about a product release he believed was rushed to market, Steve Jobs gave this response, which I’ve abbreviated here:

“You have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Some mistakes will be made along the way. That’s good because at least some decisions are being made along the way. We’ll find the mistakes, and we’ll fix them.”

You may be interested to learn that the audience applauded to his comment about taking action and making decisions.

Business is not always pretty. Mistakes will be made, but that’s what happens when you have the courage to take risks. Those risks can be minimized when you get close enough to know what your customers personally value.

That’s the first pillar of my model for getting to the heart of customer relationships.

1.    Business is always personal. If it isn’t the relationship eventually falls apart.

2.    Selling is a collaboration. Involving customers invests them in the outcomes.

3.    Customers are a community. Word-of-mouth is a force without equal.

We all know people make emotional decisions that they support with logic. This is clearly apparent when the buyer is a consumer, such as a residential landscape buyer.

It’s not so obvious with commercial landscape buyers. They may use logic to justify their decision for the company, but embedded in that decision is a personal motivation. Smart salespeople know to look for that.

No matter if your business is B2B or B2C, you are working with people. This is why I’m fanatical about creating buyer personas that make that targeted buyer as real as he or she can be.

One of the surest ways to do this is making selling a collaboration. Some will resist at first, but if you can get them working as hard as you do the outcomes will often be better than anyone thought was possible.

I used this tactic successfully in my landscaping business and have been teaching it for years. However, only recently did I discover that there is a name for it: The Ikea Effect.

People tend place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves, like Ikea furniture.

A collaboration that engages people brings together everything the customer knows, fears and aspires to be with your years of business experience and expertise. You become a team that assembles a solution that is equally owned because it is co-created.

So, stop selling and start collaborating.

If you can do that you will build a community of like-minded customers that value how your business serves them. That community of people is a cohesive group or tribe that will naturally attract more members with word-of-mouth.

A few thoughts on the customer experience

How does a business organize the customer experience? I believe the most reliable way is with stories that capture people’s imagination and affect change. Stories can be transformative, and isn’t that what we are trying to do for our customers with our work?

The perfect customer experience is 100 percent purposeful. There should be a reason for everything and it should all work together perfectly, which of course it doesn’t because people are people.

Most important is trying to make it work, as Steve Jobs did, because that’s how you remove obstacles and hopefully inspire customers to work with you.

When you start seeing the world through the lens of customer relationships it expands and grows. That’s what makes relationships the holy grail of business growth.

Jeff Korhan

About the Author:

Jeff Korhan is the author of Built-In Social, founder of Landscape Digital Institute, and a Duct Tape Marketing Certified consultant. He helps green industry owners, marketers and sales teams craft and communicate branded customer experiences that sell. Learn more at www.landscapedigitalinstitute.com

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