Visiting your customers on-site provides benefits beyond strengthening the relationship. These visits offer unique experiential knowledge that will help you to better meet your customers' needs. Create regular opportunities to meet with your customers on-site—you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
Meeting with your customers in-person is a proven way to strengthen your relationship. While you might choose to meet at a restaurant near their headquarters or while you’re both attending the same conference, try to spend at least some time in their office. By meeting with your customer in their natural habitat, you can obtain valuable knowledge that gives you a better understanding of their experiences and challenges, and thus positions you to better meet their needs.
For example, I once visited a customer who was the principal of a school district. As I arrived at the school, their assistant told me that the principal needed to delay our meeting because the police had been called to the school due to a parent, who was not legally permitted to interact with their child, arriving at the school to attempt to pick-up the student in the middle of the day.
While waiting for the principal, I had the opportunity to observe the impact of this event on the front office, teaching staff, parents dropping off forgotten books, and any students who noticed the police.
This experience was powerful. While the in-person visit benefited my relationship with the principal, it had a longstanding positive impact on my relationships with all of my customers because it taught me an important lesson: while the software company I represented was my #1 professional priority each day, it ranks far down the list of professional priorities for our customers. It helped me to recognize that I am unlikely to be my customer’s priority, especially when they were facing an urgent issues.
The Far-Reaching Benefit
This lesson allows me to assume positive intent when a customer doesn't respond in the way that I might hope they respond. This assumption helps both of us: I don’t suffer by creating stories about how I should be a higher priority and I am more likely to join our next interaction with a positive and caring mindset, versus joining with a grudge.
If I had only been meeting with the principal over the phone, perhaps they would have mentioned the police, but I would not have had the opportunity to see the impact of the their presence at the school and how it can set an entire day off-track.
Visit your customers on-site. Whether just observing that their desk is covered in papers or that their entire staff leaves at 4:59 pm, it can help you to better understand their situation. These experiences will give you invaluable knowledge that will increase your ability to help you best support your customers.