No more ‘Them and Us’ - Turning Customers into Partners

Colin Pattison, MD Capital Markets, Neueda

A customer: ‘one that purchases a commodity or service.’

A partner: ‘one involved in close co-operation with another, having specified joint rights and responsibilities.’

I n most sectors, when an organisation starts to regard and treat its customers as partners, it has an immediate impact on the mindset of all involved and a long-term bearing on the success of the relationship. This isn’t just about semantics. Working in true partnership with a customer should cultivate all the qualities of a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship – openness, accountability, understanding, cohesion – and lead to better business results.

At Neueda, we made a conscious decision to embed a partnership approach into our service delivery at an early stage. We learned quickly through experience that in the fast-moving tech environment, both we, and our customers, benefitted from maintaining an open and honest dialogue from the outset - supported by a structured reporting and governance framework that works for everyone.

Engaging an external tech company historically would have involved the IT partner working from a distance to solve a customer’s problem. This has rightly evolved as organisations recognise the value of working in a more collaborative way.

Our agile approach to working sees us regularly create blended project teams – combining our team members with those of the customer, to work together on the project and transfer our skills where necessary for future benefit. The customer gains from our tech expertise and we really get under the skin of their organisation – allowing us to make informed decisions and ultimately deliver better results.

The value of customer partnerships is not exclusive to the tech sector of course. Putting the groundwork into developing a partnership style of customer service may mean a project takes slightly longer to get off the ground or it may be more in-depth than once imagined. However, ultimately it will be delivered more effectively, with no gaps, no surprises and no unexpected turns.

Employees are motivated as they deepen their understanding of the customer’s organisation and project they are working on. They can view the benefits of their work first-hand and navigate any pitfalls as they arise.

Transparency with customers also fosters a similar culture internally, giving staff the confidence to own their decisions, challenge ideas and highlight opportunities or threats.

To really encourage a partnership approach with customers, I believe the basics are built around timely, honest communication and reporting. Mapping out regular checkpoints with key stakeholders and establishing a reporting programme that focuses on progress, issues and risks, sets a solid foundation.

Whether you’re working with a new client or wondering how to refresh an existing relationship, it’s never too late to start collaborating in a fresh way. Adopting and maintaining a partnership service approach will undoubtedly be rewarded through renewed business, positive referrals, a heightened culture of transparency – or, ideally, all of the above.