Think about your most important customers; think about the ones you enjoy working most with. Think about why you enjoy working with them – they’re nice people, you make good money from them, they pay up on time, they are low maintenance, they’re compliant. Sound familiar?
All the above reasons are perfectly valid in terms of why you might like working with particular key customers, but the most important reason isn’t in the list. We enjoy working with them because they are very demanding, they stretch and develop us in ways no other customer does.
- There is a lot on evidence that shows why working with demanding customers pays off:
- They drive your product development to go at a faster pace
- They force you into making difficult choices and tough decisions
- They improve your customer service levels
- They increase your peoples’ confidence when they achieve “the impossible”
- They ‘prove’ new value propositions you can sell elsewhere
- They get you thinking why, not, why not…..
- They encourage new thinking and challenge your company’s self-imposed orthodoxies
- They improve your selling/negotiation/key account skills
- They act as a reference site for you to leverage new work from
- Their early adopter status creates a pull-though momentum that more conservative companies follow.
Not having any demanding, challenging customers is as dangerous as having some is beneficial. This isn’t about size, a large undemanding customer can create a real sense of complacency, and the smaller customer that puts you under pressure to constantly come up with something better/different keeps your thinking sharp and your reflexes sharper.
In some organisations we see people complain about having a demanding customer, they are ‘hard work, difficult, never satisfied’. Give this person a talking to; reorientate them to understand this might be the customer that delivers this person’s future.