A Checklist for Customer Focus

Here and here, I have commented on the need to focus on your installed base of customers. The Pareto Principle or 80:20 rule (20% of your customers account for 80% of your business) strongly suggests that focusing on your top customers is a good business practice. As the current economic conditions are limiting new sales, and  “rip and replace” sales are almost impossible, concentrating on established relations may be the only way of increasing revenue.

Below is a 20-question checklist that you can use to gauge how well you are focusing on your top customers. The questions are structured in a binary, yes or no fashion. Using a 1 for Yes, and a 0 for No, you can quickly see where you stand. For simplicity’s sake, I use the phrase, “top 10,” but this number can be changed to reflect the number of customers in your 20%.

There is no “passing” score, and no question is more important than another is. If you score all “1’s,” you are doing very well. If you score all “0’s,” you are probably in trouble.

YES NO QUESTION


Can your management team name your top 10 customers?

Can each member of your Marketing organization name your top 10 customers?

Can each member of your Customer Service organization name your top 10 customers?

Is each of your top 10 customers assigned an executive sponsor?

Has that executive sponsor visited, not called his customer(s) in the past 90 days?

Do you know if any of your top 10 customers have piloted or increased their volume of any of your competitor’s products?

Is there an established process in place to handle a relationship renewal, e.g., a new contract, for each of your top 10 customers?

Is there a process in place to handle a competitive attack on one of your top 10 customers, to ensure that they remain with you?

Have you initiated a pricing discussion with your top 10 customers within the past 6 months, reflecting their change in volume potentially offset by your newer features and/or services?

Have you shared your product roadmap with your top 10 customers within the last six months?

In that meeting, did you do more listening (1) than talking (0)?

Did Sales (0) or Product Management (1) lead the roadmap meeting?

Do you have an ongoing list of customer requirements that is drawn from your installed base of customers?

Have you delivered items on this list in the past six months?

Do you have a newsletter that is sent to multiple people at each of your top 10 customers?

Are you aware of how your top 10 customers like to receive news, i.e., blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.?

If they are looking to social networking for information, do you have these tools in place?

Are your executives (not salespeople) following the blogs, tweets, etc., of your top 10 customers?

Do you know the customer satisfaction level of your top 10 customers?

Do you have tools in place to record customer satisfaction?

There is a high probability that you will lose at least one of your top 10 customers this year. While this may be due to conditions beyond your control, it could be for other reasons. Most frontline salespeople will mask or otherwise diminish negative changes. What marketing and executive management don’t want to be saying, upon reflection of a top 10 loss is, “If we had only known” or “Why didn’t we talk to them earlier?” Changing “0’s” to “1’s” in the above checklist will preclude this from happening and improve your revenue stream.

RHM 6/10/2009

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