The Jealous boyfriend syndrome
The inspiration for this blog is a recent conversation I had with a good friend and business colleague, named Philip, who also happens to be in the printing business. We arranged a meeting over coffee, to catch up on market events and to exchange notes.
As the conversation got going, Philip told me how he felt regarding one of his key accounts. A client which he has had for over eight years. He told me how this particular client had started using other print suppliers and as a result only used their account for small unimportant jobs. Philip went on to explain how he felt betrayed and hurt, as he had developed a strong bond with the companies purchasing manager. He took them for lunch, at least 3-4 times each year.
He even went as far as to send them messages on birthdays and special occasions. I asked him the reason for the lunch meetings, and he explained: “to stay relevant and to upsell.” I then asked him what the quality was like with the jobs they had been supplying this particular client over the past few years (because the quality of the work his company has been supplying had dropped considerably over the last year or so). He admitted that he had not checked up on quality or time scales for years. I asked if he had raised the subject of quality and timescale concerns with the client during any of their recent meetings. He answered, “no because it never crossed his mind due to the long-standing relationship.” I then gave him the analogy of being in a long term relationship and taken your loyal partner for granted. In the print business,
Many account managers forget about the quality management side of a client-supplier relationship and instead focus on new business acquisitions, thus leaving the management of each order with production. The production team, who are often up to their eyeballs in workload are more concerned on a day to day basis on clearing their workload, as opposed to taken care of each and every individual job (timescales and quality management). Keeping your client happy with the odd lunch, as a means to upsell to them, is all well and good! However, the key remains that you need to provide them with value for their spend (ensuring each job gets delivered on time and to a very high standard). Business from all backgrounds invests most their energy and resources on acquiring new accounts (“The commonly quoted 'average' being “it costs seven times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing customer.”) and not enough on cultivating old accounts.
We all need to place as much energy and time looking after each and every account, thus making sure that each and every job is completed and shipped on time, and the client is happy with the result. Just like with a long-term girlfriend, too often their trust and loyalty are taken for granted and too little time devoted to listening to their concerns on a day to day basis. Too often we only start paying attention once we notice their eyes and interest wondering elsewhere, which can be the beginning of the end!