How can you make your business stand out from the crowd?
This is a question that many business leaders ask themselves.
For more than ten years, our Principals have worked with Business-to-Business (B2B) Companies helping them to build competitor-resistant customer relationships. This work identified seven fundamental aspects of successful B2B relationships. Seven ways for you to differentiate your business, to stand out from the crowd, no matter what business you are in.
Use PARAPET to Differentiate Your Business
We have named these seven aspects of successful B2B relationships, Business Essentials. And, we have organized them into an acronym – PARAPET. A parapet is a protective wall – our parapet will help you protect your business relationships
P ~ Essential #1: Do what you say you will do
Trust is the foundation of all great relationships and keeping your promises is a fundamental element in building trust.
Service failures are a fact of business life; at some moment a customer will be let down. Whether it is a product defect, a late delivery, or a phone call that is not returned in a timely manner, you will want to make a graceful recovery. Because, when you make a graceful recovery, you often build a stronger relationship than if you had not had a problem in the first place!
Whether you promise to replace the product, refund the delivery charge, or return calls more promptly, it is essential that you follow through and do what you said you would do.
A ~ Essential #2: Be accessible
Customers, prospective customers, and lost customers have all told us that having contacts (e.g., account representative, help desk) accessible is a critical element of their relationships.
In this context, accessibility reflects the ease with which customers and prospects can connect with you. Ask yourself:
- Is your auto-attendant easy to navigate? How many menus does a caller have to navigate?
- Does your company telephone directory contain all the contact names (including the President)?
- Can callers search the directory by first or last name and find the person they know only as Mike?
- Do you provide customers with your cell phone number? Although they may be reluctant to use your cell number, it is reassuring to know that they can
- How quickly do you reply to messages quickly (voicemail, text and email)?
- When you are away for an extended time, do your outbound greetings (voicemail, email) offer an alternate contact?
- Is your alternate contact empowered and do they have the expertise to help?
- Do your hours of operation coincide with the needs of customers and prospects – can they reach you?
Being accessible helps build competitor-resistant relationships.
R ~ Essential #3: React quickly to customer needs
Whether they are an existing customer or a prospect, people contacting your company are expecting a quick reaction or response.
What is a quick reaction you ask? That may depend on the mode of communication.
Inquiries that come in via email or through your website are every bit as urgent as incoming calls or text messages. An immediate reply is ideal, and, in fact, this is what we have all come to expect.
Often inquiries via company websites go completely unanswered. This is another instance of failing to do what you say you will do … and we know the consequences.
Showing customers, and prospective customers, you care and are concerned about meeting their needs quickly, helps differentiate your business.
A ~ Essential #4: Make sure your billings and statements are accurate
This is a basic expectation of all customers. Accurate billings and statements won’t attract new customers; however, inaccurate billings drive customers away!
When there are discrepancies in the billings, customers become resentful of the time and energy they must invest in checking your billings thoroughly. Repeated errors add to the cost of doing business with you and erodes the customers’ trust in your company.
P ~ Essential #5: Be proactive in communicating changes in how you are fulfilling customer needs
Some customers like surprises but most do not … especially when the surprise is a service failure.
Be proactive by empowering your customers to make accommodation for late arrival or to rework their schedules for early delivery or incomplete orders.
And, if you are changing your hours of service, don’t let them find out via a closed sign on the door!
E ~ Essential #6: Be easy to do business with
This service aspect reflects the overall effort required to do business with you. When you make it easy for your customers and prospects to deal with you, you will differentiate your business!
Your customers may prefer to communicate via text message, Instagram, telephone, email or perhaps some other method. Have you accommodated this? What else does your customer want in order to feel that you are easy to do business with?
T ~ Essential #7: Take time to listen and understand the customer’s concerns and needs
Customers often tell us that the thing they value most in the relationship with their vendor/supplier is that they feel heard. Conversely, when asked what they would like the vendor/supplier to change or improve, ‘listen/better listening’ is often at the top of the list.
When you don’t listen, you show disrespect and a lack of emotional intelligence in the relationship.
Do you take time to listen to your customers’ “whole story”, or are you rushing to the solution before they have finished speaking?
Summary: Differentiate Your Business and Stand Out From the Crowd.
While these seven service aspects may seem very basic to you, customers experience service failures every day. Customers and prospective customers have told The Dunvegan Group that when their vendor/supplier consistently delivers on all seven of these Business Essentials, they differentiate their business and exceed the customers’ expectations!
By consistently delivering on these seven Business Essentials, you will set your business apart from the competitors and keep your customers coming back!
The Dunvegan Group works with B2B companies to improve customer retention using The Platinum Rule®, “Treat other people the way they want to be treated.” Learn more about our solution.
Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full-service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.