I have a friend that I see most every weekend. He typically asks me about my work week. I am not completely convinced he really cares about my week. I think really it’s his way of politely telling me he’d like to talk about his own week.
This weekend, however, was a little different. We talked about TMC’s annual Client Forum held last week in Chicago and, I must say, he really struggled to wrap his head around it. The conversation went a little something like this:
Him: You bring all your clients in at the same time to talk to each other?
Him: And you don’t sell to them?
Him: You’re an idiot. Why are they there?
Me: It’s an educational event. Our customers are experts in many different subjects. The sum of that knowledge is very powerful. As a provider, if we can harness that, it makes us different than our competition and it adds more value to our client base.
Him: You are so full of it. Aren’t you worried that they will just get in there and make demands? If it was the customer base at my company, it wouldn’t be pretty. I’d feel naked.
Me: That’s not a pretty picture. I do think it takes a certain confidence and humility to bring your clients together at one time. I guess if there were grievances to be filed, I’d want to deal with them openly and honestly. How else can you improve? But, this event wasn’t like that. We talked about big- picture topics like industry challenges, best practices, and the future direction of our services and technology.
Him: If I ever recommended this, my boss would fire me. Or laugh at me. Or both.
To sum up, I guess this conversation was a good reminder for me as to why we hold this event. For those of you who haven’t been to our forum, or a similar event, our view is fairly straight forward. We want our customers to build new relationships with other industry experts. Additionally, we view our role as a conduit. Not every shipper has every best practice down, but they certainly have a lot of them. When they share their knowledge, our client community becomes stronger. Further, it’s about the future. Who better to help us understand where we need to take our business than our customers?
Maybe my friend is right. Maybe on some level the success of these events is about trust and confidence in your own organization and your customers. I’d love to hear your thoughts. We’ve included some pictures of the day. And yes, everyone has clothes on.