“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes”. – Henry Cloud
We know that not all customers are ‘equal’. Anyone running a business would, at some point experienced the ‘not so good’ aspects of their customers. Some may become evasive, not provide responses, conveniently ‘forget’ commitments, and overall try to absolve themselves of the duty of making the relationship with the company successful. Such a relationship will not last long – it would be one-sided where customers hold all the ‘trumps’ and all the company would ever be able to do is provide service and appear to have control over the relationship. In order for a long-term robust relationship, it is essential to hold customers accountable for success too. While it is essential for a company to be accountable to the customer and the association, holding customers accountable for success in equal measure will ensure that they do their part to make the relationship strong and profitable for both.
We understand that in order to be able to hold customers accountable for success, a company must have built the relationship and made it strong through trust. A company would be able to convey effectively to the customer that they are not contributing to the company or the relationship in the most efficient manner. We know that while a company needs customers for its survival and success, customers are not always right and it may be required to point out the inefficiency of their side. Companies however, must use tact and a high level of professionalism in order to convey a problem such that the relationship remains unaffected. Whatever the issue, it is critical that a company is able to convey it across, such that it can hold customers accountable for success and ensure that they fulfil their part of the commitment to the relationship.
A company must know its customers well – this will enable them to predict any uncooperative behaviour and deal with existing and prospective customers who may suddenly become unresponsive. It is not always possible or feasible to chase such customers and if a company has other prospects in the ‘pipeline’, it would be best to ‘abandon’ customers who do not respond despite best and consistent efforts. This also conveys that your company is holding the customers accountable for success and that without contributing to the relationship, there can be no relationship. While being essential to success of the relationship, holding customers accountable for success also has a relaxing effect and works effectively in retaining the self-esteem of the company and its representatives. It is possible that some non-committed customers do leave, but holding customers accountable for success would set precedence too and your company would be able to attract the ‘right’ customers – those willing to contribute substantially to make the relationship successful.
Companies should hold customers accountable for success since it is possible that some customers do not know what is expected of them and the damage their lack of cooperation may be leaving behind. Customers may believe that they are doing a great job at maintaining a relationship, while in reality their actions could be causing major financial losses or problems for the company they are in business with. When a company knows that it must hold customers accountable, they too become extra-cautious and better at maintaining the relationship. They would not use excuses to justify poor service or unfulfilled commitments but would rather do everything they could to ensure that their customers got the best of everything. By letting customers know they are equally responsible for the success of the relationship, the customer would understand that a lack of focus and procrastinating on aspects would not help any side of the relationship. The companies that do not intend to stay long would probably bail out, while the ones who would like long-term commitment would stay. This is extremely beneficial for a company – they get to keep the ‘good’ customers and be rid of the ones that could have proved to be a drain on their resources without any actual returns.
There is no doubt that holding customers accountable for success is a challenging and daunting task even for the most professional and long-standing company. Before confronting customers, it would be imperative for a company to check and re-check that the customer’s actions are indeed causing problems and display a complete lack of consideration for the relationship and thereby towards your company. The most common of such problems is probably delayed payments. Before confronting the customer, a company must be certain to check previous payments made by the customer and methods of requests sent to them to recover payment. Only after verifying all these details, should a company confront the customer with non-payment as being a problem. A one-time defaulter would be grateful for the understanding and would continue doing business. If the customer turns out to be a serial defaulter, it would be well worth the effort to confront them in a way that not only recovers payment but either gains commitment for prompt payments in the future or pushes the particular customer to bail out of the relationship.
At the start of any company-customer relationship, it is important that clear policies and rules are laid down and everyone has complete understanding of them. Before being able to hold customers accountable for success, it is essential to ensure that they understand all the policies of your company and that every point in the business contract is clear to them. This prevents ambiguity and does not allow customers to ‘hide’ behind excuses and pretences of not knowing. Ensure that apart from every particular contract, your company’s website and other on-line and offline resources clearly state common policies, regulations and rules such that your company is able to attract only ‘willing and committed’ customers. It takes a lot of effort, time, and money to gain new customers and hence this ‘exercise’ must bear long-standing and fruitful results in the form of like-minded customers – those willing to be held accountable for the success of the relationship.
In holding customers accountable for success, a company must remain courteous, polite, and helpful. Even though a problem in the association may be the fault of a customer, the company must step up and provide possible options and solutions in a bid to resolve the issue. Doing so will encourage the customer to do their bit and stay on for a long time with the company. This would be a good time to reiterate and emphasize the importance of adherence to the policies and regulations – a customer looking for a long-term relationship would be more amenable to appreciating your efforts and would be committed to being held responsible and accountable in the future too. Such an understanding would lead to enhanced levels of trust and clear the path for a sustained and profitable relationship – for both.
At all times, and especially when holding customers accountable for success, ensure that your company never slips or defaults on its customer service. By consistently providing excellent customer service, a customer would be more open to continuing a favourable relationship by being more responsible and responsive in doing their part in the association. With so many companies offering similar products and services, the truly distinguishing trait of a company is certainly its customer service – which has the potential to keep even the toughest customers happy.
Achieving success for your company and for the customer does not mean that only your company must have all the responsibility. It is also about ensuring that you convey to them what they need to do and hold customers accountable for success. The relationship cannot be a success if there is a gap and if control lies completely with the customer – in fact most customers would appreciate when a company lays out everything clearly and makes every effort to help customers. By holding customers accountable for success, you would not only retain your company’s self-respect, but also keep the reputation of both sides secure.