Your company has worked hard to produce products and offer services that meet the needs of most of your customers. You have received great feedback from people who have utilised your products for some time. There are times when you have to adjust some aspects of your products, but in the main, customers are happy with what you have.
So, what do you do when a customer asks you to bespoke something just for them?
It could be something quite straightforward as lengthening payment terms or change your delivery processes to match the needs of other branches. In those cases, you may be able to bend the rules slightly and not be too affected in your margins to accommodate their needs.
What, though, if the customer’s demands require you to be more flexible than you are willing to be? What if you could accommodate the request but it would mean a change to the engineering processes, or produced in a colour that’s not currently on your list?
Could you be that flexible? Well, let’s take a look at some things that would help you decide.
1) Ask specifically why they have that particular need
Depending on the request, find out the root cause for the change or different need. They may want to use a different budget, so require longer payment terms. Or they may want it to match other items they already have.
Find out the real reason for the request to ascertain if it could be worth the effort.
2) Determine if there needs to be some form of negotiation involved
If they are requesting longer payment terms, could you be flexible in this regard if the order was increased? If they want a change of spec, would this simply be a one-off order, or could it be the start of a long partnership?
Be clear on what you could ask in return for the changes they are requesting.
3) Determine what the short, medium and long-term costs would be for you
If it’s a short-term flexible adjustment they are requesting, it will obviously be seen as an easier fix than if it was a complete change in engineering spec.
Decide how you are going to select the criteria against which you will judge the costs you will incur if you are flexible enough to agree to their requests.
4) If it’s a big ask, see if you could go part of the way to agreeing to the request
If it’s impossible to agree to every last request from the customer, could you go part of the way there, or maybe ask for some compromise on the customer’s behalf?
Some changes maybe easier to make in the short term, or if there’s an agreement for a long-term relationship. Work on what compromises may be agreeable to both you and their positions.
5) Get clearance from the relevant departments before agreeing to be flexible
If they are looking for a spec change, communicate with your engineering team or your buying team before agreeing to be flexible. It will be a lot worse if you agree to the customer’s demands and are then not able to get them fulfilled, than if you gave yourself time to check with the relevant departments and then came back with possible alternatives if the request is not possible.
6) Decide exactly how flexible you want to be with this customer before agreeing
Many customers will ask for lots of changes and promise the earth to you in order to get what they want from you, and then go back on those promises, leaving you in a predicament when you ask for them to order more or place higher-value orders.
Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of bending over backwards so far, you can’t get back up again off the floor.
There are lots of hoops you may have to go through before you decide if you can get as flexible as the customer is asking. But if you get it right, you will be in a great position with this customer by showing them that you are willing to move and adjust to fulfil needs and wants.