Academy for Chief Executives Blog Rotating Header Image

Top tips – Understanding your most important customers

Top tips for Understanding your most important customers “Whilst telephone research, website surveys, questionnaires etc all have their place this is not good enough for key accounts – in the same way that members of staff get an annual appraisal, key accounts should get an annual face to face appraisal carried out by a senior executive.” says Phil Jesson of Key Account Specialists KAMGURU. We use their checklist here with permission.

These questions are not a script – they are a series of prompts designed to establish the key account’s perceptions as part of a conversation – they should be tailored to suit each situation. Remember that their perceptions become your reality!

The first questions are audit questions in the true sense – focusing on performance today/recent past:

  1. Where are we meeting your expectations?
  2. Where are we exceeding your expectations?
  3. Where are we falling short of your expectations?
  4. What unresolved issues are there?
  5. How do we compare to others:-
    • In our industry?
    • In other industries?
  6. How would you sum us up in a sentence?
  7. If you could put the clocks back what do you think should have been done differently?
  8. Do you see us a supplier, friendly face or business partner?
  9. If we were an animal or bird what would we be?
  10. Overall, how many marks out of ten would you give us today?

The second bank of questions is what Phil calls “second cup of coffee questions”. “When chatting to the customer, if s/he shows no sign of wanting to terminate the meeting and is clearly enjoying it, push on into more futuristic questions when the second cup of coffee arrives”. These questions identify needs and opportunities for the future:

  1. How is your business changing?
  2. What pressures will you face from outside and inside your business?
  3. What will your main objectives for the future be?
  4. How will you achieve them?
  5. How could we help you?
  6. What one thing could we do that we are not currently doing?
  7. What do you see as being the big issues in our future relationship?
  8. What would we have to do to score ten out of ten?
  9. Where would you be happy to see us have more of your business in the future?
  10. Is there anything else I need to know…………….?

The final word goes to Phil Jesson – “If a CEO drives change there will always be some cynics who will say “we have seen all this before – this is change for change’s sake.” If a Consultant like me drives the change there will always be some cynics who will say “what does he know?……..he doesn’t work in our industry!” I believe that customer feedback fed into the organisation is the single most effective agent for change. If the customer says “it would really help me if you could do more of this …………..or less of that” people (even the cynics) don’t ignore it as they know, deep down, that it could affect their own job security!”

Phil Jesson is the Academy’s Operations Director and is additionally involved in leading the way that speakers are selected, inducted and managed. KAMguru is the key account management division of Business Pulse – an innovative and pioneering Midlands-based management consultancy formed in 1988.

More at



Leave a Reply