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Are you giving your clients what they want, or what they need?

Chris Marston, Head of Professional Practices at Lloyds TSB Commercial, plays devil's advocate.

From time to time we ask our SME customers what they're looking for from their bankers, sometimes as part of a formal customer satisfaction exercise but more often - and more valuably - during face-to-face conversations with their relationship manager. It's easy for us to believe we are more important to our customers than we really are, and occasionally we fall into the trap of making assumptions about what they need from us, based on what they tell us, or even on what they don't.

To address this, we train our managers to ask questions that will get to the root of the customer's needs, based upon an understanding of their enterprise that includes their relationships with suppliers and customers, the competitive environment, the effects of legislation, the economy and environmental issues upon their business.