Seeing Your Business Through Your Customers’ Eyes

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     duane.christensen@results-radio.com

Marketing Strategist

Results Radio Townsquare Media – Sioux Falls

www.duanechristensen.townsquareinteractive.com

Charley’s Grilled Subs – A Lesson in Customer Service

Charleys subCharley’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 always always always 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!

Duane Christensen

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”.

Bad Business Alert

We all know there are bad businesses out there. It’s just too bad we have to learn about some of them through our own experience.

Image courtesy of “David Castillo Dominici” / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not giving the name of a business. I don’t do that on a public blog. But I have shared the specifics face-to-face with friends and family because I’d rather they avoid this business.

I just don’t understand how a business can be blind to bad customer service, no ethics, and no apparent morals within some of their employees. Maybe the business owner isn’t blind to it…they just don’t care. Either way, it’s not cool.

It’s rampant. Don’t you think this will catch up with them? These are companies who advertise a lot. Companies who scrape and claw to increase sales. Don’t they know that if they ran a better business, they wouldn’t have to advertise so much? Really, all they’re doing is attracting new customers to experience their ineptness.

If you’re a shady or uncaring Sioux Falls business, I hope you go out of business fast, so you don’t hurt others with your bad practices.

If you’re a good, local Sioux Falls business, do you know how easy it is for good advertising to help you grow? We can shine a light on your good business and above average service and philosophies. And we can do it in a manner that doesn’t sound like the puffery so many others are spouting.

I work with good businesses who show passion in their work and care about people. If you’re one of those…I’d like to help you help more people. Let’s attract more new customers that will then share the good word about you to their friends and family.

Have you ever had people come in and do business with you because of the awful experience they had at one of your competitors? It happens all the time. There are people out there READY to hear about a good, local business they can trust. Let’s tell them about you!

For more help with local advertising performance, and advice concerning what you should actually SAY in your advertising to make it work better, consider my book, “Take a Bigger Slice”. Or heck, just ask me about it, I’ll probably bring you a copy.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day!

Duane Christensen

Results Radio – Townsquare Media

Sioux Falls Radio Advertising blog

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Crankin’ on all Cylinders

Good radio advertising helps businesses “crank on all cylinders”.

Image courtesy of “Sura Nualpradid” / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Crankin’ on all cylinders” is just a phrase that a client of mine used recently. It was nice to hear. Actually gave me a nice boost that day. This business has made mistakes in the past and learned from them. They’ve taken chances and done things out of the ordinary that their competition would be afraid to implement. They’re proactive in standing out and doing things differently. They’re smart with their investments. They think things through…and then act. It’s so fun to write a radio campaign for a business like that!

But good radio advertising can’t fix a business that doesn’t have everything right on the inside yet.

Bad character: For some reason I give a lot of people the benefit of the doubt. But then I run into a business owner or a salesperson with too much “shady” inside of them. It’ll catch up with them fast.

Employees with no direction: You can’t have employees that just “do their job”. They need to be part of your big goal. They need to be on board with you on delivering an outstanding customer experience.

Not in business for the right reason: You have to be in business to help people. Yes, you need to make a profit, but profits come faster and easier when you help people and they love you for it.

You may try to patch holes in your sales inconsistencies by throwing good money at advertising…but you have to right the ship within before you can expect advertising to do you any good. For example, I have one client spending a little bit on advertising with me. We’re in the process of talking about repairing some things within his business. I’m recommending he puts his ads on hold for a few months until he can deliver a better customer experience. Doesn’t that make more sense?

Need some more inspiration and great advice for creating a GOOD COMPANY? Check out Tim Miles’ book, called Good Company.

Let’s get more cylinders crankin’ inside the business before we try to attract more customers. Because wouldn’t you want those new customers to tell other people about how nice, fair, helpful, honest, and genuine you are…instead of the opposite?

Now…if you’re all set…let’s work together to make your 2013 and the next 5 years better than you thought was possible.

Duane Christensen

Passionate about helping businesses grow. Working at Results Radio Townsquare Media in Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls Radio Advertising blog

Sioux Falls: Easy To Start A Business?

Oh Sioux Falls. I’ve considered moving to a more attractive climate before.

Because why do we subject ourselves to such volatile weather? But my wife and I always come back to the same conclusion – to stay. The crime is usually minimal. The people are pretty good – as long as you don’t push your political views down my throat too much. We know a lot of people too – lots of connections. We’re well established here (not always, we went through our “broke as hell” stage). And there always just seems to be something nice about the whole area. It feels good.

So, the allure of the Sioux Falls area for a lot of people is pretty strong. And the economy stays healthy most of the time, so a lot of people try to start their own business thinking that Sioux Falls is steady, but also growing.

But I just want to point out that owning a SUCCESSFUL business all comes down to the customer experience. I know location is important…and financial smarts…and demand for your product or service…but but but there’s too many start-ups that don’t understand you better deliver a solid experience for your customers.

Many think that Sioux Falls is great enough to support any new business no matter how you run it. But we still have low start-up success rates just like every other city around the country. Starting a new business and successfully operating a new business is hard. There’s so much more to do than just opening your doors and saying “Ta-da!!!”

I still have way too many awful customer experiences in this town. And we’re supposed to be friendly and understanding here in God’s country, right? Short story…

I had to drop a few things off at the household hazardous waste facility the other day. I wasn’t expecting the awesome attitudes and friendliness that I received. I got better service and more smiles there…than I do at most other local businesses! But before you say, “So what”, I want you to consider something. They have no competition! They don’t HAVE to be nice. They don’t have to worry about me going somewhere else for better service. And they were still fantastic, cheery, and helpful.

So, what about the restaurant, the plumber, the auto repair shop, the website designer, the restaurant, the advertising rep, etc. that fails to remember that they have a LOT of competition? That I have a ton of other choices?

My point? I’d love to see more new businesses thrive and stay in business – so maybe they could take a lesson from the awesome guys at the household hazardous waste facility here in Sioux Falls. It’s not easy to be profitable and be successful as small business owner…so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by forgetting that your biggest assets are your customers.

Start there first. Get some good word-of-mouth going. Then when you advertise…I’ll help you attract new faces and increase the volume of your good word-of-mouth even more! Pretty soon you’ll either have to expand, add another location, or just enjoy your profits.

Sioux Falls…I like you. I’m staying. And I want to help you grow and become known as a city of respect and friendliness – no matter if I’m walking down the street, in need of a good electrician, or ordering a Philly sandwich.

Have a great day!

Duane Christensen

Sioux Falls Radio Advertising blog