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When you wish to know your customers better, what initiatives does your organization undertake? Do you go meet customers, organize customer events, design feedback forms to be filled up by customers, or even commission an external consultant to conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey? You may be doing some or perhaps even all of these. Which is commendable as these exercises certainly help in understanding your customers better and cementing the relationship further.

But how many of you actually know where your core customers (the 20% who contribute to 80% of your turnover) have positioned you in their growth plans? Do they view you as a vital partner or just as a current supplier or service provider? Do they see you as a key contributor to their long term goals? Do you figure in their future plans? Based on their perceptions, how do they expect your organization and your people to respond to them? How do they position you vis-a-vis best of class firms of a similar nature?

Golden key
The answers to these core questions have the power to drive or derail your business growth as these are from your topmost customers. How your top customers have fit you into their growth plans is perhaps the golden key to your business success.

If your organization possesses these answers, it probably is already highly geared towards its customers with excellent relationship development mechanisms in place as these are not normally available through traditional methods of customer connect. The challenge here is then to interpret the information correctly and leverage it for best business benefit.

If there are only limited or no answers, then it is time to get into the act of collecting them if you are serious about your business growth. Mere guessing or working on partial information about your top customers’ perceptions can be dangerous. Shooting in the dark can lead to unpleasant surprises that are best avoided.

How then does an organization go about getting these specific customer insights? Will its sales team adequately perform the task by engaging a mix of senior and operational managers to get these strategic inputs? Will customers loosen up to provide transparent and frank inputs to their touchpoints in your organization? Can the whole exercise be carried out comprehensively without an element of bias? Any internal effort is likely to have shades of grey for these very reasons. Using external consultants who understand your business deep enough to get these strategic insights for you may be a more viable option.

Getting a ringside view into your top customers’ perceptions about your organization can help you revisit and refine your strategy for this important group. Linking these perceptions to your own business plans and aligning the rest of the stakeholders to these insights is a sure shot route to success.

(This blog written by Sukanya Badri was initially posted in the website of Prayag Consulting http://www.prayag.com/blogs/category/customer-relationship/)