Listening is one of the most effective tools a supplier can use to strengthen its customer relationship. However, listening is more complex than simply hearing what your customers have to say. It involves dedicating time to consistent communication, understanding the context of their feedback, and responding appropriately.
Why should you invest in customer listening?
Suppliers who invest in listening find that it presents greater opportunities for collaboration. Collaboration is a prerequisite to mutual growth and engaged partnerships. An engaged partnership empowers suppliers to achieve their company’s objectives and fosters an environment for sustainable success.
An engaged partnership also impacts the ability of the supplier to adapt and respond to the business environment. When a company achieves its organizational objectives and benefits from mutual growth, they develop resilience and adaptability. This effect situates the organization to better respond to the dynamic, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) landscape.
Suppliers have had to respond to numerous changes in the business world, including human resource availability, capital investment and shopper preferences, to name a few. These factors are out of their hands and dictated by global trends, not internal decisions. To respond to these changes effectively, a supplier should utilize customer listening to pool resources, reduce financial risks, expand shopper intelligence and overall, strengthen its relationship.
How suppliers can strengthen their customer listening
Customers are unlikely to be direct and honest with their feedback, fearing that it may jeopardize their relationship with the supplier. As a result, your customer’s true feelings about their relationship with you are not communicated. This leads to a partnership that never reaches its full potential, causing both organizations to miss opportunities for mutual benefits.
The secret to avoiding this lies in listening. Knowing whether you are effectively listening to your customers and where you need improvement puts you on the path to a sustainable and profitable relationship. Here are four questions to analyze your retailer listening and improve your customer relationship.
1. Do you comprehend what is essential for your customer’s business?
Successful B2B relationships involve suppliers who understand what their customers want, what is vital for their business to run efficiently and the most effective way of making their product or service available. This goes beyond knowing the key stakeholders and their roles; it’s understanding the retailer’s strategy and long and short-term visions.
This deep knowledge is critical to tailoring your approach, meeting their evolving needs and providing them with value.
2. Do you understand your “assets” and your “pain points” in delivering on what is essential?
Listening to a customer’s feedback about your relationship and service is walking away with a comprehensive understanding of where you’re performing well and where you need to improve.
This allows you to direct support into weaker areas of your operations and leverage your strengths into opportunities for maximizing collaboration. To meet your customer’s needs, you need their input. Listening to your customer gives you direction when assessing your services and systems, allowing you to improve, sustain and leverage where required.
Though pricing is relevant, it must be packed as part of your overall customer strategy and not as a sole factor for discussion. Enlarge your value creation zone and avoid transactional talks that do not lead to more profound value.
3. Do you adapt your strategy to every customer?
Every customer is different. While a retailer’s primary function remains the same, each one’s industry, market, operations, personnel, and shoppers are different. As each retailer contends with its variables, a one-size-fits-all approach to listening and negotiating will not be practical or provide you with the intelligence you need to succeed.
A deeper understanding of the retailer is acquired through active listening. With time and consistent listening, you will begin to understand how to tailor your approach to extract the answers you need to meet their expectations. This can also help you with your negotiation journey. Crafting a customized strategy for each retailer allows you to account for the nuances among each customer, enabling you to develop unique tactics and behaviours to reach a win-win outcome.
4. Do you listen consistently and with objectivity?
If discussions, negotiations, and listening are done without respect, understanding, and compassion, you may risk your customer’s relationships. Rebuilding these jeopardized relationships may take years.
When listening, it can be easy to lose objectivity. Focus on the customer and their point of view, and remember that feedback should not be taken personally. Retailers understand their shoppers best and know the impact of an unstable supply chain on consumers’ behaviour. If you take your organization out of the situation, you’ll realize the valuable insight that feedback can provide. We recommend viewing it as an opportunity to impress the customer with your organization’s improvement in the future.
Customer listening is a competitive advantage during uncertain and challenging times, helping you understand the landscape from your customer’s unique perspective. A pause in listening can reduce clarity and empathy in your relationship and cause you to miss critical information. Inconsistent listening may also hamper the respect your customer feels. Ensure that you are always an active listener and participant when approaching discussions. This makes your customer feel heard and respected.
Listening to your customers is an undervalued but crucial element of successful B2B relationships. With the Advantage Report, we can help you improve your retailer engagement through data, insights, and action planning. Connect with an Engagement Advisor today.