Improving the Overall Effectiveness of Customer Visits is as Easy
C. Dennis, MBA, CBF and Steven
Customer visits are time consuming and expensive, but they can sometimes
provide valuable information and insights about a specific customer,
their needs and their business operations. To make personal visits
more productive, follow the A.B.C's:
Always make an appointment. Don't show up unexpectedly and uninvited
- unless the only reason for the visit is to try to obtain payment
from a seriously delinquent debtor.
Always take the time to confirm your appointment in writing by
fax, email or letter.
Always notify your sales department of your plan to visit the
customer, and ask if there are any issues that the salesperson
would like you not to discuss with the customer. If sales objects
to you meeting with "their" customer, explain that by
resolving problems and gathering information first hand that you
will be more likely to be willing and able to help the customer
in the future.
Ask the customer for a tour of the facility when you first arrive.
Most customers will proudly show you their operation. This is
a good way to break the ice. It also is a valuable source of
for you about the business operation in general.
Ask your customer to send you a list of issues they would like
Asking for updated financial statements during a personal visit
is fairly common, and it is much harder for your customer to
refuse to provide this information when you are face-to-face
Be courteous even if the person you were scheduled to meet with
is "unavailable." If you are offered the opportunity
to meet with a subordinate instead, do so. Keep this meeting brief.
Outline what you want to talk to their manager about - and then
try to reschedule the original meeting.
Be on your best behavior during your visit. No matter how difficult
or contentious the negotiations become, you are your customer's
guest and should act accordingly.
Before the meeting, send a list of issues you want to cover
along with any relevant supporting documentation. If you want
disputed items, send a package including supporting documentation
at least two weeks ahead of time, and preferably a month ahead
time. If you do, chances are good that the customer will already
have handled many of the issues before you arrive.
Confirm your appointment again the day before the meeting by
Confirm with your manager your negotiating authority limits -
if any - before you actually visit a customer
One final thought: Do whatever you can to assure the customer that
your visit is not intended to be a disguised threat or an insult.
Retaining customer goodwill is every employee's job.