Customers as Partners

How often do we hear words like; ‘We work in partnership with our customers’. Welcome to yet more rhetoric. It’s as if we say it often enough, loud enough, to as many people as possible, it will become more than wishful thinking. Rarely is your customer relationship a partnership, mainly because of the contractual arrangements, self-preservation and ego that gets in the way of it becoming so. 
What sort of partnership do you have with your business to business customers?
Are you a supplier?  This means you have a contract to deliver services. When you re-tender, you and all your competitors will face the same level playing field.  You will compete on price.  They will all make extravagant claims about their excellent service.
Are you a supplier of choice?  In which case, you deliver everything in your contract, on time, on budget, to the accepted standard.  When the contract is re-tendered every competitor will claim they can deliver what you have done at roughly the same price.  The advantage you have is some evidence that you are up to the task.  Your customer hopefully thinks; ‘better the devil we know’.
Are you a partner?  You deliver everything that is expected. The difference is in the way you work together to deliver.  You make every effort to understand what success looks like for your partners and together to achieve this.  It’s as if you share the same goals.  You have become the partner of choice. How could they manage without you?
These principles apply to all types of customer relationship not just business to business.
  • Are you regarded simply as a supplier?
  • Are you a supplier of choice?
  • Do your customers engage with your business and choose to become involved?
If you want to make partnership the reality of your customer relationship, first, accept what sort of relationship your customers perceive they have with you. Don’t believe your own rhetoric. If you want to have something different, then, identify what behaviours you need to demonstrate in order for your customers to choose to join you in a relationship which can truly be defined as a partnership.
Remember if you don’t deliver to their expectations you will quickly find yourselves as ‘just another supplier’ accompanied by all of the uncertainty that comes with this status.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how Paradigmantics can help your organisation to develop more engaged partners, contact: andy@paradigmantics.com