Customers Grow Business: Ignore Your Customers at Your Peril!
Success with attracting, servicing and keeping good customers is a key strategic imperative for all business success. Alternatively, to neglect your customers will adversely impact business performance and damage reputations, brands and trust, and potentially undermine business survival. Therefore, as you develop and flex business strategies over time, you must put your customers at the front and centre of your approach to increase the performance of your business.
Understanding Your Customers
To fairly embed your customers in strategy, and in day to day operations and marketing, requires a deep understanding of your customers and what you offer them. Understanding your customers and potential customers requires everyone in the organisation to understand with passion and appreciate how customers can impact your business, and how customers perceive your products and services as valuable to them.
This organisation-wide understanding of your customers will need to be updated regularly to assess any shifts and changes in your customers’ demands, expectations and any delivery expectation gaps that exist. Business mentoring and business coaching can assist business owners and leaders in reviewing how customers are viewed and integrated into the thinking of your organisation, as a natural part of your business strategy formulation and implementation.
It is considered that supporting your customers with quality service and products and a good experience should improve their satisfaction and loyalty. Customer service is a concept most businesses understand and get feedback from customersabout. This is to ensure what you deliver is what customers really want and is delivered in a consistent fashion by your people and the business. Customer service should be measured in a professional and systematic fashion. For example, are the interactions with your people, product or services and systems what the customer expects? Does your business rely on a relevant and dynamic website or social media for customers to use? Do these attract, convert and retain customers? How does your offering compare with your competition? How could you improve your offering, and what suggestions have you elicited from customers to consider? A well-matched business mentor or business coach with experience in the customer space can be a valuable input to your strategic thinking around customer attraction, retention and growth, all of which helps your business to prosper and grow.
Setting Targets for Better Customer Service
Business owners and senior leaders need to be committed to ensure that they have clear strategies, resources and organisation, proper governance and policies to achieve the appropriate levels of customer service and satisfaction in order to deliver the strategic plan.
There must be targets set to measure what is achieved in:
- Customer satisfaction
- Success of delivering the products or services
- Marketing and sales performance
- Comparisons with the competition
- Operational efficiency, including systems, social media and online platforms
- Cost management
- Pricing levels achieved
This customer and performance information can be fed back to all stakeholders, as appropriate, to get continual learning and improvements in delivery by management, systems and your people. You can also analyse the reactions of your customers and plan for new and improved offerings and service.
Policies for Customer Expectations
Since customers are increasingly wielding power and reshaping the future, businesses need to monitor and manage customers’ evolving expectations. In this area, some of the policies business mentors and business coaches can assist businesses with include:
- Anticipating trends and changes to your products and services
- Calibre and training programs for customer-facing staff
- Focusing on customer feedback to help know what they want
- Helping you to consider how to entrench customer satisfaction in the company culture
- Setting and monitoring KPIs relating back to customers’ experience
True business customer centricity and putting customers at the heart of the organisation has become all important. From the customers’ perspective, it is about choice, feeling appreciated and getting great value.
Customer dissatisfaction with suppliers does hit the news from time to time. The recent Royal Commissions in Australia, focused on the banking and aged care sectors, have found many customers left very dissatisfied with services. These customers have been disregarded by organisations for long periods of time, with weak governance unable to appropriately identify fairly serious conduct of staff towards those all-important customers and their eventual demands for fundamental changes. The resultant damage to these business’s reputations and the loss of trust from customers was substantial. All these failures, in part, stem from not keeping their customers central to their thinking and business culture.
The result has been a detrimental impact on these organisations’ financial performance and perceived business value. Since then, these organisations have begun to rebuild customer centricity and trust, and their prospects have improved. However, with hindsight, it is better to act proactively with customer feedback, ensuring it comes to the surface and is not potentially hidden from the organisation’s leadership. This can be done by considering improvements in the systematic processes to avoid any myopia to customer feedback, optimising the customer’s experience, and building this feedback and analysis into the long-term value to the business.
Innovating in a Competitive World
With increased population and technology, there’s now an ever-increasing number of businesses locally and globally, giving customers massive choices and increasing competition between businesses. Customers have access to an enormous amount of information which can influence how they buy, making it more strategically important to be customer centric long term.
So, how can you innovate with a customer focus?
This is where engaging a business mentor or coach can help you to better succeed with your customers. They are experienced in all facets of business, including the importance of innovating with a customer focus. Through confidential and candid discussion, they can help you consider what is needed for customer centricity and to deliver an excellent customer experience as part of your thinking, strategy and approach. This includes many aspects, such as:
- Getting good customer feedback and analysis of the data
- Processes to ensure customers are heard and action taken
- Empathy of your staff with customers
- Personalisation of service and products and differentiation in the market
- Resources of time and effort with customer research
- Expectations understanding and management
- Resolution of customer dissatisfaction as a win/win
- Integrity of the organisation from the customer’s viewpoint
A customer’s experience of excellence cannot be achieved with a textbook solution. Customer experiences and demands all need to be measured and reviewed. This needs scrutiny, and the results should feed into the development of business strategies and policies. Since you need a deep understanding of your customers, the ability to create the systems and processes is essential to meet your customers’ needs, allowing you to tailor what you provide in line with your business strategy.
The Power of Data
Another area which is often neglected is the use of data analytics to give crucial insights into customer needs, wants and behaviours. Sadly, many businesses and organisations do not adequately use the data that they have available. This causes them to miss out on potential opportunities, or to fail to adapt to changes quickly enough, resulting in them losing markets and customers as things change without them being fully aware.
Whilst many businesses are now totally dependent on digital solutions for serving their customers, others require personalised responses and interaction with customers. It is vital to have appropriate approaches for your specific customers and the products and services that they would appreciate and value. Customer centricity is a strategic requirement for success at all levels of organisations, from the Boards to Management and all levels of employees. Customer relationships and analyses are now recognised as some of the most important issues facing and potentially future-proofing businesses. It is no surprise that many Boards have appointed dedicated c suite senior positions to oversee customer related issues.
A business mentor or business coach is experienced in the customer-centric space and can help you to re-examine strategic customer thinking through confidential business mentoring.