I decided to write a little bit about this topic because I’m giving a short talk to a small group of Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire members. I think the best way for me to really get ultra-familiar with a topic is to write about it.
This topic is kind of vague. There’s not really a step-by-step guide. It’s about helping you improve your understanding of your customers. What makes them tick? What makes them buy from you? What do they wish you did, but you don’t? The answers to those questions can open a lot of new doors for you.
To me, Seeing Your Business Through Your Customers’ Eyes means you have to get to know your core group of customers really well. I don’t mean having beers with them every week, but maybe just TALK to them more often than you do. Ask some good questions about the problems they have, and about how well or poorly your product or service addresses those problems. Then listen to them. Really listen. Listen so hard that you have to stop them a few times for clarity and say, “tell me more about that” or “explain that a little more”. And make them feel comfortable enough, so they will also share any shortfalls your products or services may have… not just “the good stuff”. Remember, you’re trying to improve your business, so get out your “thick skin” and be willing and prepared to hear the bad stuff, too.
The True Benefits
What’s the benefit of understanding your customer better? Why does it matter? Why should YOU care? Quick answers: Growth comes easier, customer service is better, marketing is more effective, an overall more successful business.
When you know your customer in a deeper way, or know how they feel about your business or product or service… then, you’ll be able to please your future customers better. That also leads to having fewer negative word-of-mouth incidences and fewer negative online reviews.
That reminds me… Have you checked your Google reviews lately? Make sure someone is checking that from time to time. Tip: If you have your Google business page set up correctly, you’ll get notifications for when any new review comes in. Then, you’ll be able to reply to that person in a timely manner with a “thank you”… or you might be able to head off a bad review by seeing if there’s something you can do to fix the negative experience they had.
Who Is Your Customer?
You have to know who your real customer is. Not demographics. That’s the stuff that doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Who are they INSIDE? What are they FEELING? What are their PROBLEMS? What do they CARE about?
Let’s try a few.
The flooring / carpet business…
“She’s a 56-year old female who is ready to stop settling. She wants soft, durable, and beautiful carpet that enhances her home and that her grand babies can crawl around on. She also likes to hear from us that if anything might go wrong along the way, she’ll be taken care of. She appreciates a solid, trusting relationship with the local businesses that she deals with.”
The financial services business…
“She’s 44 years old and she wants to know that her future is secure. She wants to make sure that if anything were to happen to her husband, her family wouldn’t have to sell the house and move. She wants to know that she won’t have to get a second job. She wants financial peace of mind for later in life.”
The home builder / remodeler…
“Our core customer is a married couple who knows they don’t want a ‘cookie-cutter’ home. They have a comfortable income and it’s ok if they have to pay a little more for uniqueness and higher quality. They’re usually pretty tidy and like things to be a particular way. They also want to know that they aren’t paying 20% more than the industry average for building and design services.”
The high-quality hotel…
“He’s a business traveler who needs a comfortable bed for a great rest. He needs a little extra work space in his room to prepare for the next day of sales calls or meetings. He’d rather not have to leave early to grab an unhealthy fast food breakfast, but rather have ample complementary choices for breakfast at the hotel. And since he’s from out of town, he occasionally asks for dining, shopping, or entertainment destinations in the area.”
The kitchen and bath showroom…
“She wants to really impress her guests with a gorgeous kitchen. But she also wants to know that it’s not going to cost an arm and a leg for extra design help. She has about a dozen different magazines or pictures with her when she walks through the door. She knows the general style she’s looking for, but often times gets excited when we show her a few design concepts and colors she hasn’t seen before. She usually loves our attention and knowing that we care.”
Take Off Your Blinders
You may think you know your customer, but many business owners or managers have BLINDERS on. You get too close to your business. You get tunnel-vision. But it’s not your fault. It happens automatically. All you have to do is break the cycle and the habits you’re in. Look at everything a little bit differently – as if YOU are the consumer who’s considering doing business with you.
There are a lot of different ways you can step into your customers’ shoes or see through their eyes to get a better glimpse of what you’re doing well and what you may need to improve. I’m going to try to give you a few ideas here…
Hire some secret shoppers – then get their honest feedback. You want to know what their experience was like throughout every touchpoint within your business. On the phone, in-person, level of confidence they had in the people they talked to within your business, how did the environment or surroundings make them feel, etc.
TALK to some of your core customers or past customers. To me, this is the most important one. Do a mini-interview with a few customers. Have a list of questions ready that you’ve really thought out. Ask them what they care about. Ask them how you could have helped them in the past even more. Ask them what they love or appreciate about what you do for them. And for helping you out, why not give them a gift card or something for their trouble?And if you’re tempted to just rely on sending out surveys instead of actually talking to your customers, you’re going to miss out on some really important feedback that is pretty much impossible to learn from a “Rate Us” type of survey, hoping they’ll actually fill out the comments area at the bottom.
One thing to ask your customers to do, that could be really valuable, is to ask them how they would describe your company (or what you do) to a friend. They’ll use verbiage that you wouldn’t think of because you’re too close to your business and haven’t looked at it from the outside-in for a long time. If you gather a bunch of those, what you find, can help you say things in your marketing to better connect with your ideal prospect. You may find out part of what you offer, that you thought was awesome, isn’t really that important to them, or vice-versa. It will also help you understand how to talk to your customers in their language – because maybe you or your employees are talking over your customers heads.
Know your competition. What kind of experience are your potential customers having with your competition? Is there something they do, that you don’t? What kind of messages to they put out to the public in their marketing? By knowing what your competitors are doing and saying, then you know what your customers or potential new customers are also hearing and seeing.
Talk to your employees one-on-one. Ask them what they see and hear from your customers. What are the most common questions your customers ask them? Is there anything that is commonly asked for that you can’t provide? If your employees really aren’t sure… then you should encourage them to ask your customers more questions, also. Let them know that your customers are your best resource for improving customer service, marketing, sales, etc.
Pretend you’re one of your customers who is looking for information on your website. You may think a website is just a website. But is it easy to find your phone number there? Your hours? The basics of what you do and do well? It should be easy for your customers (and non-customers) to easily find the information they’re looking for on your website. It’s one thing that is often overlooked.
Get down in the trenches for a few days, or every now and then, to make sure you stay in-touch with your customer’s problems, wants, and needs. You may think that you can run on auto-pilot (or manage from a distance)… and maybe you have some good systems in place to help ensure a good customer experience… BUT you need to check that system from the ground up, periodically.
Short snippets about “walking in your customers’ shoes” and why it’s important…
And here’s one more from Shep Hyken that’s quick and to the point…
You need to see your business through the eyes of your customers once in a while. They’re the reason you’re in business, right?
Duane Christensen 605-940-7984 firstname.lastname@example.org
Results Radio Townsquare Media – Sioux Falls