Here’s a challenge many B2B companies face:
- Clients ask for one point of contact, a person who is always accessible and is familiar with their issues.
- But, from the company’s perspective, that request is impractical.
How to deal with this conundrum?
Fortunately, the answer is not to overstaff your customer service department so you can have an expert on call 24/7 for each of your clients.
What you can do: Focus on giving customers most of what they really want, but have it delivered by a high-functioning, collaborative team.
What customers really want
When a customer says “I want one point of contact,” what they are really saying is, “I want instant access to someone who knows me, knows my business and is empowered to help me.”
Ironically, it’s difficult for one person to do this, even though clients often ask for one point of contact. One person can’t be continuously available, and, in most companies, it’s difficult for one person to be a comprehensive information source.
So, it’s actually more likely that you can give customers what they really want by using a well-executed team approach. However, you’ll have to overcome these common perceptions about teams first:
- Team members don’t have or can’t find relevant client information
- Teams are disjointed and don’t communicate with each other
- Individual team members aren’t empowered to solve problems
How a team can function as one point of contact
Your client will see the team as one point of contact only if the team’s interactions with the client are integrated and seamless. Much like a jazz group improvising a tune, the team needs to be alert to what each other is doing, creating a unified “performance” for the customer. Simply put, you need to orchestrate your interdependent interactions with the client.
Here are some tips to make that happen:
1. Talk as a team about your clients
This seems pretty basic, but is often overlooked. Spend time as a team reviewing the client’s business, the client’s business with you, and information you have learned about your contacts at the client company.
2. Record and share important client information
Each time one member of your team interacts with a client, that person will gain knowledge that will inform future interactions. If each of you records that client information, and if each of you references this client information in future interactions, you will be able to demonstrate a shared understanding of the client.
Also, be sure to share new information you have learned every time you meet as a team.
3. Demonstrate interest and ownership of the relationship
Recently, one of my clients was receiving complaints from one of their customers about not having one point of contact. As we dug into the issue, we realized that the real problem was that when other team members spoke with this customer they acted like they were “filling in.” They didn’t act like this was “their” customer.
When we coached these team members to act like they were vested in the relationship during customer conversation, their reactions were, “Oh, that’s what you want me to do? Ok.” No one had ever instructed them about how to interact in these situations, but once they knew what to do, it was not hard for them to adapt.
4. Create encounters, not transactions, in every conversation
Once your team members recognize that they should demonstrate interest and ownership in the relationship, the next step is to coach them on how to create a relationship-building encounter every time they speak with a customer. To do this, your team members need to ensure that every interaction is:
- A listening-fueled conversation
- Personalized to this customer
- Patient and empathetic
By conducting the interaction in this way, the client won’t feel “short-changed” if they talk with someone other than the person they expected. It will feel natural, productive and relationship-building.
These are basic, easy-to-execute principles, but it’s also easy to mess them up. Discuss these principles as a team, and always be aware of what the experience of working with your team looks like from your client’s point of view.
You don’t need to apologize for not having one point of contact. Be clear and confident as you describe the team approach, demonstrating to your client that this process gives them better attention, and creates an overall better experience.