Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity for advancing your relationship and gaining key information. Your early interaction efforts set the stage for mature and productive relationships.

Clear and efficient communication with your customers may serve you better than anything else in developing relationships. Once you have established mutual trust and respect, you will be in a solid position to work through any difficulties that may arise. The appreciation of your customer’s thoughts, business cycles, processes, technologies and constraints provides a rich basis for working together.

If you feel that your company may not be interacting enough with customers, it might be due to undeveloped relationships. Below is a checklist that may help identify key relationship deficiencies and growth areas for your business.

Currently Perform? Customer Interaction Point
Is there sufficient time in your quality project planning phase (i.e., Define in DMAIC [Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control]) to fully understand the customer requirements of your process?
Are suppliers and subcontractors included in project/process measurement and improvement efforts?
Do you have tracking systems for monitoring success at meeting customer requirements (e.g., dashboard)?
Do you have a corrective action system in place for quantifying and addressing improvement areas where customer requirements are not being met?
Is voice of the sustomer (e.g., survey, e-survey, focus groups) being collected for desired improvements or innovations?
Do you have a certification process and training program to educate employees and suppliers on meeting customer requirements?
Are professional or user conferences attended by your company to interact with customers in a non-pressure type environment?
Are customers included in problem solving projects or teams? How about benchmarking teams, product design (i.e., Design for Six Sigma) teams, or pilot projects?
Is time allotted to develop and grow a relationship with the customer in which mutual trust and respect evolve from a thorough understanding of each other’s industry and business?
Are multiple channels open to the customer at many levels in your organization (e.g. face-to-face meetings, surveys, letters of complaint, call center)?

Steps To Ensure Success

  1. Understand customer value in improvement
  2. Include voice of the customer in all processes
  3. Develop systems to quantify feedback
  4. Involve the customer in improvements
  5. Share improvements with customer
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