We were interviewing a prospective customer and asked a standard question, “What’s wrong with your current exhibit house.” The answer was very straightforward, “They said ‘no’ to us too many times.” This was a valuable answer because it cued us in to the type of customer/vendor relationship they were seeking.
Understanding the nature of the type of relationship that a customer wants is very important for both the customer and supplier, significantly increasing the chances that the supplier sets itself up to get the relationship off to a smooth start. As a customer, it is worth being clear with a prospective vendor what you want and expect in the way of service.
As examples here are three basic types of customer relationship styles, courtesy of the Harvard Business Review:
1. Business Partners – where the customer seeks a long-term, valued and reliable partner to help solve business problems (the relationship we prefer and the one which characterizes about 80% or our relationships)
2. Basic Exchange or ‘Transactional’ – where the customer wants reliable access to goods or services at a fair price and no more
3. Master Servant – where the customer expects the vendor to listen, anticipate needs, do what it is told and not ask questions
Knowing what a customer wants helps us help them. The same thinking also applies to you and you own customers. What type of relationship do they want with your brand when they come to a meeting or event? Are you delivering it? For a much more nuanced look at this, and how understanding relationship types can give marketers a competitive edge, go here.