Your company may have thousands – or even tens of thousands – of employees working for it all over the world; however, as far as your customer accounts are concerned, you are the principal individual through whom they will have any contact once the initial sale has been completed. While they may speak with a sales associate of the company from time to time with regard to parts, consumables, upgrades or new equipment purchases, you are probably the only one they will actually see on a regular basis. As such, you are basically serving as an “ambassador” for both the equipment manufacturer and its services arm.
The role of the “ambassador”, while important, should not be a difficult one to play. Who more than you within the company could possibly do a better job? You are the one who makes regular service calls to the customer site; you have met and interacted with all of the principal equipment managers and operators at the customer site; you are familiar with the entire equipment service history; and you probably have all of the product literature and service documentation readily available at your fingertips. Plus, you are the one that also has had years of experience in supporting a wide variety of business systems and equipment, including new models, “end-of-life” equipment, and everything in-between in a variety of business applications.
So, you know the customer, you know the equipment, you know how the customer uses the equipment, and you know how the customer reacts when the equipment goes down. As a result, you already have everything you need on the “input” side; now all you need is some guidance with respect to using this information to your advantage on the “output” side, so you may truly serve as an ambassador to your customer base.
The first step in your role as an ambassador to the customer is to familiarize – or re-familiarize – yourself with all of the data and information you already have at hand. This will require reviewing the contents of your various customer service and support materials, such as product documentation, service guides, service-level agreements, internal and external documents and memoranda, company e-mails, recall notices, new product announcements, and any other items that you believe may ultimately have some impact with respect to customer needs and satisfaction. Every once in a while, it will also be to your advantage to visit your company’s web site to see if there have been any recent press releases, product announcements or the like that will help increase your overall understanding of what your company presently offers to its customers.
In today’s world, technology is constantly changing, and these changes often lead to the development of new products, new services, new software functionality and new business alliances between and among traditional companies. You should also spend the time to make yourself aware of any changes in these areas as you deal with your customers, since many of them will be reading the same websites, trade journals and business newspapers as you should be.
Given that your customers already look at you as their primary go-to person with respect to their business systems and equipment support, it is only natural that they will look to you for additional information and guidance as well. For example, your customers have probably asked you countless questions like “Who do I need to talk to in the company to see about adding components to our existing system configuration?”, “What do you think are the best types of consumables to use?”, “Our monthly throughput has really been increasing; do you think it’s time for us to consider upgrading to a bigger unit?”. None of these questions necessarily fall within your specific area of equipment service responsibility; but, you have probably answered them every time in the past – and, if not, you should get yourself to a position where you are able to in the future.
The best way to position yourself as a customer ambassador is to think – from the customer’s perspective – what other types of questions they would want answered if they had their company’s ambassador right there on-site, at their disposal, at any time. These questions would almost certainly involve information on new products, new services, new contracts, and almost too many other items to list.
Still, the more insight you have into your customers’ needs, usage and operation of their business systems and equipment, the better prepared you will be to pre-suppose what those questions might be. This can also provide you with some guidance as to what specific types of data and information you should be obtaining and reviewing on an ongoing basis in order to be able to respond to any and all of your customers’ questions “on the fly”.
Another thing to remember is that the more information the customer believes you have readily accessible, the more likely they will be to ask you more questions. Consequently, the more questions they ask you, and the more information you provide them, the more likely they will be to move forward on your suggestions. This, in turn, will probably lead them to buy more products and services from your company and, ultimately, become even more reliant on you for additional support. Very quickly, any existing relationship can become an even stronger “win-win” situation for both the customer and the service provider, as the customer now has a more direct source of data and information that it may use for future purchase decision-making. Effectively, from the customer’s perspective, the company has an added sales and promotional arm already out in the field – i.e., you.
There will always be multiple communications channels between your company and the customer – going both ways, from top to bottom and side-to-side, and throughout both organizations. However, by stepping in at the appropriate times, either when asked directly by the customer, or when a specific situation arises where you believe you can be of assistance, you will ultimately strengthen your role as the principal communications channel between the two parties. In fact, you probably already are serving in this capacity for most of your customers!
The way to determine if this is not the case, however, is to find out how many times, and how often, your customers go around you to obtain information on new products, new services, service level agreements, etc. If this happens quite frequently, the message that you should be getting is that you have not been making yourself as accessible to the customer as they would like, and that they would like to see more interaction and intervention on your part in order to make their job of managing their installed base of equipment a bit easier.
Again, nobody is asking you to do more than your designated responsibilities in terms of managing the service of your customers’ installed base of equipment and providing a full measure of support to your customers; however, if your primary job responsibility is to attend to your customers’ overall needs and requirements, and maximize the corresponding levels of customer satisfaction, then by serving as a principal channel between them and the company, you will only be making your own job that much easier.
The primary role of any ambassador, ultimately, is to serve as an intermediary who can make things easier for each of the parties it represents – in your case, bringing the customer and your company together in a true partner relationship. The beauty is that you probably already have most of the tools you will need to serve in the role of an ambassador, coupled with a fair measure of historical credibility among your customer base as well.
Now, all you have to do is be just a bit more proactive and interactive with your customers so they will know (if they didn’t already) that they have this additional resource in you. Thus, by simply doing what you do already – just in a bit more open and organized fashion – you can easily become a much more valuable resource to your customers – and your company.