I heard someone say once that 'if it wasn't for the customer, business would be easy'.
It was meant in jest, however in truth customers can be tricky beasts to deal with. I mean they demand stuff like a good quality product, and they want it on time, and then they are slow in paying you for it…
The thing we learn early on in business is that whilst they present difficulties, many of these are of our own making and we wouldn't have a business without them. So how do you prepare for this in your new business?
In this article, I present you with three simple strategies to make sure your business is oriented around the customer, and how you can interact with them successfully.
- Know them well. You may or may not have heard the term C.R.M – it stands for Customer Relationship Management and usually refers to some kind of fancy database where you keep information on a customer like their contact details, transaction details and a record of your communications with them. But a piece of software with data in it cannot ever actually manage a relationship. You have to do this. And in any relationship, it pays to know the other party really well, so you can contribute something of value to them.
To be blunt, most business knows their customer poorly. They don't focus enough energy on understanding needs and wants, and often the first sign of trouble is a customer who has just disappeared or who is complaining loudly about some slight or wrong. In other words, businesses are reactive to customers not proactive.
I recommend you survey customers regularly to be up to date with their needs and wants, and also map out a pathway of customer experience for every interaction you have with them. You should be looking to create a situation where every time a customer deals with you it is easy, valuable, useful and exceeds their expectation.
- Fix it quick – don't spend time arguing with a customer about an issue that has arisen. Just fix it. Take back their product, refund their money, make good on your promises. Whatever it is, just fix it. You are going to get upset customers, but you don't need to make either your life or theirs more difficult by getting into an argument about it
- Dump the non-ideal – you should definitely look after clients and right mistakes – but only if they are ideal for your business. If you find yourself constantly hassled by a client that you can't seem to satisfy then chances are they are not right for your business. So don't deal with them. A customer has every right to seek redress if you make a mistake or don't deliver on your promises. But likewise, you have every right to only deal with clients who value what you do. You don't have to sell them products or services if you don't want to. Of course this assumes you know who your ideal client is – so make that a priority too if you don't already know
That is just three ways you can centre your operations on finding and servicing your ideal customer. The best and most profitable businesses in the world are doing this right now. Guaranteed.
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