Quick story. I’m having the exterior of my house painted. They’re on Day 2. And they should finish up today. BUT… it’s gonna be HOT. Hot hot. So, when they got here this morning, I opened up the window of my office and said, “I bet you’re gonna work fast so you can be done before it gets too hot.”
And I wasn’t trying to imply to them that they should bust their ass, so my house could be finished. I was just kind of feeling bad that they were going to be stuck outside on such a wicked hot day.
But the owner, Dana, said to me…
“I hear ya, but it’s hard to work fast.”
I stopped and thought about that.
He’s a painter. He’s working on the trim today. There’s some delicate work. If he rushes… then the quality suffers.
There’s “hustle” and then there’s “rushing”. There’s a difference. If I rush through any process of creating great ads for my clients… or skip parts of the sales process… then, the end result suffers. So, yes, sometimes it’s hard to work fast… especially when you’re in the good habit of doing the best work for your customers that you can. Which ensures that some day you’ll get a referral from that happy customer.
Here’s another quote – I think I heard it in the movie “Shooter”…
“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
Slow doesn’t have to mean turtle-slow or sloth-slow. It can also mean “smooth-slow”. And isn’t “Smooth” something you’d like to be?
There are many times that I need to hustle. And that just means putting a little extra giddyup in my step and staying focused on my task at hand… and when that’s done, starting my next task. And the next. But I don’t rush something that shouldn’t be rushed. Because then the work suffers. When you can see the bigger picture, “smooth” and “hustle” will always bring you greater success in the long run versus just working fast just to get something off your plate.
Maybe you have employees and you wish them to work a little faster. It might not be “fast” that you want out of them. They might just need to quit with excessive “Lolly-gagging”. Or maybe they need more focus and direction. Don’t assume that faster work means more money for the company. Because if work suffers from too much “fast”… then, your customers will “smoothly” never be repeat customers.
We’ve hired our painter multiple times and referred him to others. And we’ll keep hiring him when we need his unique kind of “smoothness”.
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?
The on-hold message for your business matters. And your on-hold message needs help.
I was recently on-hold for a few minutes the other day. It was a local business. Their on-hold message is what gave me the idea to write about this topic. But I WILL give them kudos for trying to make an on-hold message that stood out from all the others. Yet I would have preferred some run-of-the-mill classical music. Here’s why…
They had a radio jingle as part of the message. They also had a voice telling me a few things. They talked about the services they provided and the products they had. Which is predictable. (Remember? Predictability puts a choke-hold on marketing effectiveness)
Then, the voice kept saying, “Thank you for calling. Your call is VERY important to us.” I heard that about 5 times within about 3 minutes. Yes, I know my call is important to you, whoever you are. And then the jingle would cut in occasionally… which seemed very out-of-date and was kind of annoying. (that’s the thing with jingles – they can either do wonders for a business, or turn people off)
So… what’s my advice on your on-hold message?
I would hang on every word of your on-hold message if you were giving me tips and advice regarding your industry or the products and services you provide. And not lame tips that 85% of the population knows. I’m talking about really interesting or even obscure information that would intrigue me and / or help me.
DON’T TRY TO SELL ME WHILE I’M ON HOLD! At least don’t be so obvious about it.
If you told me a few customer experience stories…you’d have my attention. As long as you don’t water them down. I love to hear the specifics. When you tell a detailed story…it means it’s real. And then people know you’re not “full of it”. People also like to hear that they’re not the only ones who might be in the same situation. Make them feel comfortable about calling. Make them feel confident that you’re a business who cares about giving them a good end result. If you can cause people to like you a little bit more because of a tip or a story you told them… then you’ve just moved them closer to buying from you, buying MORE from you, or buying more OFTEN from you.
All that from an on-hold message. Can you believe it? Believe it. The communication you have with your customers matters. The words you choose matters. It’s not the “act” of doing something (direct mail, on-hold message, advertising, core customer emails, thank you cards, etc.) … it’s the manner in which you do it. It’s the FEELING you give someone about you or your company… that makes all the difference. Make sure the sincerity level of your marketing communications is dialed up to a level 8, 9, or 10.
Do you think you should have a “professional” voice do your on-hold message? I’d actually prefer if the business owner or someone within the business did it. Because it cranks up the “Sincerity Level” another notch or two. People want to do business with good, honest, hard-working people who care about their customers. So, show them that’s what you are.
It’s pretty much the same with all of your marketing communications. Make it real. Make it sincere. Tell us something we might not know. Tell us a story that can help get your point across.
I had a great meeting with the lead pastor of a local Sioux Falls church recently.
One thing he said will stick with me for a long time. He said…
“We asked ourselves, if our church was gone tomorrow, would we be missed? Would anybody in the community notice?”
Image courtesy of “Michelle Meiklejohn” / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Whoa. That’s powerful. What a great question to ask yourself.
He was asking me about radio advertising. I feel that we hit it off. I’m going to enjoy working with these people.
He said six years ago they decided to change what they were about. They wanted to make a difference in our community. They wanted to help the children and people of Sioux Falls to make this a better place. So, now they ask, “What do you need?” And then, they put their thinking caps on to see how they can fill that need. It was an inspirational meeting for me. These are good people. People who want to make a difference.
Do YOU want to make a difference? It doesn’t have to be something colossal. Start small. Volunteer. Mentor. Help a friend. If we all did one small thing to help our community on a consistent basis, imagine what that would look like.
I love working with businesses, business owners, and non-profits who want to help people and provide products and services that will improve their customers’ lives…or take away their customers’ pain. In fact, I seek out those good people. It’s not about the money. It’s about making a difference. If I can help good, honest people help more people (their customers), then I’m a happy man.
This church is doing so many wonderful things in our community. If they were gone tomorrow…they WOULD be missed.
I also have current radio clients who help the community. They sponsor worthy charities. They do a little something extra. They have good hearts. They take extra time out of their lives to help others. I know we feel like there’s not enough time in the day sometimes…but we have to make time. It’s worth it.
Have a great day!
Workin’ for: Results Radio Townsquare Media – Sioux Falls
Charley’s Grilled Subs is a favorite of mine. They’re in the mall. But I don’t shop in the mall. Charley’s is a destination for me. It’s good enough for me to make a special trip to the mall…just to grab one of Charley’s awesome grilled subs. They have enough selection to keep me curious and trying something new every time. I usually grab a buddy from work and we head over to Charley’s.
Let me be clear. A sandwich…is my favorite food. And Charley’s never disappoints. Of course it’s not an average sandwich. It’s a grilled sub where they sear and fry everything on the grill right in front of you.
And what about USDA Choice steak that you can’t even find in the grocery store? Or the courageous practice that if your fries sit longer than 90 seconds, they go in the trash? 90 seconds! Now, that’s fresh!
I’m not going to talk about their food though. It’s good. It’s great! I highly recommend you try it. Ok, I’m done talking about the food.
I notice their customer service. But let’s not think of it as “customer service”… but maybe “customer delightedness”.
Their employees alwaysalwaysalways appear to be happy and having a good time. In my opinion…that rubs off on customers. Of course, you’ve been to other eateries where “the help” seems to have just gotten out of bed. Or they have a chip on their shoulder something fierce, and you wonder if they spit in everyone’s food. But not at Charley’s.
I talked to the owners of Charley’s recently. Nice, hardworking, and grateful people.
What’s their secret? I don’t think they have one – they just run a business like more people should.
They KNOW that their employees are part of their marketing. They come up with employee contests. They ask for input and feedback. They ask for ideas. They share their sales numbers and get them to WANT to beat yesterday’s numbers or last week’s numbers. Charley’s employees feel they’re part of the team…not just an hourly worker bee.
And it SHOWS! And it works! Charley’s always seems to be busy when I’m there. Of course, you’d expect they would get a bunch of mall traffic. And they do. But just “being in the mall” doesn’t guarantee success. I’ve seen many eateries come and go in the mall. And the ones that have to close up shop usually had a “customer delightedness” problem. Or the owners tried to manage from afar. And that doesn’t work.
And what about their marketing? Of course, I could help them do some really awesome radio…but that isn’t always the best thing for a restaurant with tight profit margins. Especially for a place like Charley’s who is still fairly new. The owners of Charley’s here in Sioux Falls at the Empire Mall aren’t afraid to go out and “get” business. They’ll hand a coupon to anyone, anywhere – with a smile and a handshake.
I’m not a fan of coupons in newspapers and online because then you start training people to look for your coupon. Coupons are to help entice someone NEW to try you out. Then…you can dazzle them. And Charley’s does just that! The owners and management make sure they have a pocket full of coupons wherever they go. They get out and meet new people. They say something like, “Hey, when your head is on a swivel in the food court at the mall…wondering where you should eat…give us a try!”
You get a great meal…at a fair price…and happy employees “whistling while they work”. It beats the tar out of most places we visit these days, right?
I think if they continue to empower their employees and make sure they understand how much impact their smiles and attitude affect their customers…they’ll keep growing and continue to be a success!
Congrats, Charley’s Grilled Subs! You’re doing it right! Thank you!
Have a delicious day!
Sioux Falls Radio Advertising blog
I work for Results Radio / Townsquare Media in Sioux Falls. I even have a local advertising book that was published July 2012. The e-book is available on Amazon. Click here if you’d like to take a look at “Take A Bigger Slice”.