As published on SmartCompany, Thursday 21 April 2011.
How often do we let days and weeks go by without spending time listening to our customers? I am not talking about standard transactional exchanges, I mean a real chat – getting answers to the important questions.
Let me first context this post with a few basic truisms in business:
- You don’t own your customer.
- You can’t control your customer.
- You don’t close the sale to a customer.
- Your customers won’t be loyal to you.
So if you can’t control your customer and keep them buying from you, what can you do?
Over the years I have spent time researching and observing the characteristics of successful businesses. The two factors that define all leading and enduring performers is their commitment to product and service innovation through listening.
Engaging in a regular dialogue with your customers by asking questions about their experience(s) with you can be incredibly enlightening and can help you build market share. Yes, it can be confronting, and yes, it does take you away from your ever increasing ‘to do’ list, but let me be clear, it is a necessity if you wish to increase loyalty, drive advocacy and attract new customers.
In an increasingly digital world, we often don’t see our customers. Sometime there is no direct verbal or written exchange with a customer. While we have an opportunity to design great online customer experiences, if we don’t spend time observing customer behaviour and ask them how well we’re doing (and what else we should be doing) then innovation becomes risky business indeed.
When you’re speaking with your customers, try these three simple questions to start with:
- Would you recommend us to your colleagues/friends? (Note: this is the key question used to measure your Net Promoter Score).
- What one thing can we do to make more of a difference to you?
- What are the challenges (problems) you’re facing?
Being prepared and committed to listening will help you create customer experiences that resonate positively with your market. While you won’t ever be able to control your customer, you will give them less of a reason to move away from you while you lift the bar for your competitors.
Let me know how you go or if you have any customer experience stories you’d like to share.
Prepared by Greg Muller, Chief Executive Officer