Business is strong, some might even say booming, in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs are working hard to make our businesses even better. Consumers and businesses are flush with cash as more jobs translate into more spending. At 5.9%, the US jobless rate is the best we have seen in six years. In Silicon Valley, the unemployment rate is lower and the picture is even better.
Although most businesses in Silicon Valley are scrambling to keep up with demand and expand workforces and facilities, many of the smartest leaders in business are also using their cash and profits to build systems that can help them say, "thank you," to their most important customers and partners.
This is what I see smart business managers doing:
1. Mentor great customers and partners. Rank your initiatives, customers and partners based on their strategic value to your business. Look at whether they are adding value to your long-term ecosystem. Once you've identified customers and partners important to your ecosystem, assign your best staff to mentor and help these people succeed. Regularly scheduled meetings improve results. I've also seen great things happen from saying a simple, "thank you," to the top people contributing value.
2. Create a dashboard to identify customer contributions. Look beyond sales to understand the total value of each customer. Over the last few years, I have seen companies move to cloud-based customer reward points to help identify valuable customers that are advocating for products. Although these systems are not needed, they can help with organization and prioritization. They are used by business leaders to review their advocates online and see who is making direct referrals that lead to sales.
3. Measure partner and customer contribution to your business. While a dashboard for customer contributions can measure the volume and type of activities by customers, it can't measure the results of these activities. For this, you need a way to track the contribution through your sales process. New cloud-based analytics systems attached to web sites can help you to identify which of your partners and customers are contributing to both your lead generation growth and the growth of your overall ecosystem.
4. Sharing information with customers when they want it. Customers now expect rapid access to more information. To meet this expectation, some businesses will need to change their corporate culture. Implementing a culture of saying, "thank you," to customers can help align the company around the idea that customers, even demanding customers, are part of the same company team.
In times past, when customers and vendors had questions about invoices or payments, it could take weeks or even months to resolve. Now, everyone expects to see their documents and information online. Customers expect issues to be resolved in minutes, conveniently, and without interrupting their lives and jobs.
5. Increase personalized service with key customers. I've seen companies in high-growth mode delay getting their documents in order. The longer they wait, the harder it is and the more likely errors are created. Have contracts, prior payments and receipts easily accessible to staff so that they can review patterns. Customer and staff should be able to access information with a self-service interface when possible.
This will free up more time for your staff to give customers, vendors, and other staff personalized attention when they do need to talk to another person. Personalized interaction on the phone or with chat is a key opportunity to convey appreciation to customers.
For more than 20 years, I've seen Silicon Valley businesses implement technology across their organizations to gain a competitive edge, often leading the rest of the US in key areas of operational efficiency. Given the large number of entrepreneurs, it is part of the Silicon Valley culture to focus on improving efficiency.
Surprisingly, this efficiency is resulting in a greater focus on saying, "thank you," to the most valuable customers and partners. As many types of customer interactions transition to a self-service model, other, more personalized interactions are replacing them.
I'm happy to share more detailed information with other entrepreneurs and business leaders, including information on the specific cloud-based services that we've recently purchased at my own company as well as the process we went through for evaluation. I'll be candid about what works and what I would like to improve. I would also like to learn from you about what you've implemented recently. Please either leave a note in the comment section below or contact me on Twitter @rlacerte.