The ten lessons we learned from talking to our customers

And why we recommend it to every company

Antwerp / Belgium / April 19

In these past few months we had the incredible opportunity to talk to 30 representatives of our customer database in Western Europe. We wanted to retrieve information about disruption, innovation and our future business relationship. And although we did get the input we wanted, our interviewees gave us so much more.

An overview of what we learned:

1. Our customers were prepared to talk to us. In fact, they were more than willing to speak their minds in an honest and open way. They gave us insights into the things that matter to them and had even thought about resolving some of the issues they encounter in logistics and in other business areas today. The honesty went up to the point that the questions we had prepared were no more than a formality. Once the conversation had truly started, we nodded and took notes.

2. We received very personal feedback on the relationships between our customers and their contacts within Ahlers, which were truly a joy to pass on to our colleagues. This does not only stipulate how important personal interaction is. It also put a big smile on our colleagues’ faces. They are more than motivated to keep up the good work.

3.  Not all customers share our enthusiasm on innovation and digitization. Some see it as a degradation of human contact. It is our responsibility to prove that the opposite is true. By digitizing repetitive tasks for example, we want to free up time in our colleagues’ busy working schedule. Time to talk to our customers and ask them what we can do for them.

4. There is no such thing as too much information. Our customers want to know what goes on in our company and in the logistics industry as a whole. They want to be prepared for trends or events that have the power to turn their businesses upside down. And trends or events in logistics have that power.

5. If we really want to get a message across, it is not enough to post a news item on our website and then share it through social media channels. If we really want them to hear our story and it has an added value for our customers as well of course, they are open to emails, calls and personal visits.

6. People and their companies are naturally loyal. Most of our contacts stated that they do not jump up and down in sheer joy whenever they have to start looking for a new supplier. If you do a good job at a correct price, they tend to stay for a very long time.

7. Offering a good service at a correct price, does not equal a status quo for years to come. Our customers expect us to keep a finger on the pulse of the logistics industry, ready to anticipate if needed. The growing focus on sustainability was given as a good example of a recent development our customers expect us to act upon.

8. Customers are forgiving. Making mistakes is allowed and second chances are given on a daily basis. It’s the not learning from mistakes that they find annoying.

9. We have valuable knowledge that our customers do not have. And no, this is not our arrogance speaking. This is our customer saying that they value our input and our pro-activeness in our partnership. They are truly interested in our ideas if this means optimizing their operation and improving their business.

10. By actively asking our customer for feedback, we created a dialogue from which valid expectations grew. By meeting these expectations to the greatest extent possible, we allow ourselves to grow together in an partnership of equals.

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