Find out if you're serving your customers well

A few weeks ago, I wrote a two-part series about consulting skills. My point was that no matter what job you're in, there's a good chance you will need to polish these skills in the next few years. Since we're in a service economy, each of us needs to think about the service we provide to our internal customers as well as to our outside customers. The response to that series was tremendous. Many of you asked for more details about how you can equip yourself with more hands-on consulting techniques.

Our firm has been researching the key elements of exceptional customer partnerships. We wanted to know exactly what behaviors contribute to customer trust, loyalty and repeat business. We've benchmarked companies who do different parts very well. We've asked our client's customers what they perceive as value-added, relationship-building behavior. And we've worked with the best internal and external sales professionals to discover their best practices. Although each customer relationship is unique, there are some things that are common to many "consulting" business relationships. Here are some ideas you can apply, no matter where you work or what you do:

A good place to start is with a Client Planning Meeting to kick off the New Year. These planning meetings can be held with any or all of your key customers. They might be people in other departments who are on the receiving end of your work, or with outside customers to whom you provide products or services. They can also be held with your peers, manager or your employees, since they are your customers, too.

At these meetings, the focus changes from the work you're performing to 1.) your personal performance, and 2.) the client's future needs. Ask questions such as the following:

1.      Personal feedback:

·        Do you think I am knowledgeable about your issues?

·        Have I been accessible and responsive to your needs?

·        What should I be doing to ensure that I deliver high value to you? To the project/work?

·        Have there been times when I've exceeded your expectations?

·        If there was one thing I could do better, what would it be?

·        Is there anything else you think I should be aware of?

·        Would you recommend my work to others?


2.      Client's needs and issues:

·        What are your short and long-term goals?

·        What customer issues/problems do you have?

·        Share samples of solutions you've seen work with other "clients" to suggest approaches and find areas that you can add value.

·        Brainstorm ways in which you could help.

·        Develop goals and plans together

These Client Planning Meetings can be scheduled quarterly or more frequently, depending on the situation. They can be can be conducted by phone, if your customers are in the field, or even in writing. However, a follow-up discussion is needed for best effect, since the value for the customer is in the dialogue.

Building a stronger relationship with your customers is a great strategy for the New Year. Not only does it build a foundation for improve your performance, it creates job security in an insecure world.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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