Given that every industry is unique in their own way, it is important to discover ways that allow one to be customer centric in their own arena. And to be thoroughly efficient with the process, it is better to get the information straight out of the horse’s mouth.
A recent interaction with a forthcoming client led me to discover some key points that can help us be more customer centric in the experiential learning sector. They go as follows –
Being Authentic and Genuine
Be yourself. Do not pretend to know information on any topic that comes up during client conversations. People easily figure out pretence and this will directly bring down your credibility. It’s okay to say that you don’t know about a topic but will find out more about it and come back to them in the committed timelines.
We can express empathy with a client/customer by listening to them patiently with the objective of understanding their thoughts/ideas/concerns or any challenges that they might facing. Active listening followed by paraphrasing of what they said, assures them of the fact that you have actually listened and have truly understood them.
This also helps in building long-term relationships where the customers trust that you care for them and will always be around to help. It is true that ‘Empathy’ is an emotion and also can be looked upon as a thinking muscle that becomes stronger the more we use it.
Understanding the problem/challenge
It is important to first understand the problem/challenge of the customer completely before getting into solving it or offering solutions. This is a problem with many people in the client facing/business development function as sometimes we tend to lose focus on the customer and focus too much on ourselves/our offerings etc.
The key is to ask the right questions till we understand the problem/requirement completely. Framing the right questions is a part of the preparatory phase before the sales call and will be different for every function/industry, etc.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”
Being open to Customisation
Almost a century ago, Henry Ford famously proclaimed that his customers could have a car painted any color they wanted
– “so long as it is black.”
A lot has changed since then. Customisation or tailor-made offerings/solutions to cater to a requirement is the need of the hour. In today’s world, its not just good enough to have skills but it is also expected of you to provide solutions that are personalized for them. This is because that everybody feels that their problem is unique and hence needs a solution that is personalized, customized and sometimes very different than what has been done before for different customers. Copy-plus-paste is hence a bad idea in our industry.
Know the Customer Well
This includes, among other things, going through the Linkedin profile of the customers to know their background. This can help you understand the client in terms of the organisations they have worked in before and finding out common connections. Researching the organisation on LinkedIn to understand what’s happening in the organisation, any recent organisational structure change, mergers and acquisitions, attrition, among others is also a good idea. This helps in building up conversations in meetings and builds confidence in the minds of the customer about you, Your knowledge. The cascading effect of this is immediate and customers are more likely to trust the customised solutions you have to offer.
Understanding the Trends in the Overall Industry
Always being updated about the trends in the industry, for e.g. Automobile slump in the country, bankruptcy filed by companies, political situation such as new government, new laws and reforms in the corporate sector, mass layoffs, the health of the organizations of our clients. This is essential to know as this helps you assess any company’s readiness to invest in learning and development of the employees when other alarming/critical matters become a priority.
New Age Concepts in L&D
Being aware of the new age concert and new age companies in L&D and HR always makes for interesting conversations.
“Have you heard about Gloat?” – “It is a technology startup, based in New York and Tel Aviv, revolutionizing HR through advanced AI and machine learning.”
This is a good way to capture customer attention and build credibility about your own industry knowledge. Many platforms are available to keep abreast of trends in the industry – World Economic Forum and Mckinsey Insights are two of my favourites. Following leaders and thought pioneers on Linkedin, like Josh Bersin, is also a great way to be part of the cutting edge conversations in the industry.
Staying in Touch with Customers
Finding out and practising innovative methods to stay in touch with the customers, helps in every industry. One way is to share a one pager infographic of your latest leadership offerings on WhatsApp. Sharing a link of the one pager with the client will tell them about the topic and the freedom to open it at their own will when it is convenient for them. The client will also appreciate this effort made by you of staying connected with them without taking much of their time and helps in staying top of mind for them.
Knowing your Sponsors
Identifying the key stakeholders in the client account who are going to be the ultimate decision makers for any training or learning interventions is always helpful. Identifying such sponsors helps one in devising strategies and a pitch relevant for them, striking a chord with them. Such customized solutions/offerings always finds more takers than a generalised pitch made for “the target audience.”
Two Cents From My Side
Practising and implementing these steps on a daily basis will give any individual or organisation a competitive advantage and help one boost their position to a Learning Partner and not just another vendor.