Customers are one of the two main assets of any business. One is your employees who are the face and soul of your business, figuratively speaking. The other are your customers who are your source of revenue, hence the reason you exist as a business in the first place.
Whether you are a retailer, a professional service provider or a manufacturer, listening to your customers is existential as it often proves to be the reason for your success or respectively your failure.
In the many years of being an executive coach and business consultant in Ireland, I’ve witnessed a number of companies experiencing tremendous success or overnight failures simply because they were or weren’t tuned in to what people wanted or didn’t want.
Yes, listening to your customers can make all the difference. Here’s what it could do for you:
Solve existing problems (you might not even be aware of).
Your clients are the ones that experience your products, services, customer service, etc. on a daily basis. If there is somebody who knows what needs improvement, what creates inconveniences, what is annoying; it is your customers. They experience your products or services in various ways; they know what your customer service is like first hand. They are the ones that talk to your employees. So whenever there’s a glitch, a problem or an inconvenience, they know best.
Of course issues arise left and right, that’s life but whenever there is a chronic issue or a consistent failure in the system you might want to know otherwise you will end up losing customers.
An excellent example of how client input could be invaluable in terms of solving issues is for example the apparel brand Target. A customer blamed Target in her blog for offering overly sexualised children’s clothing. She shared her indignation and was quickly supported by hundreds of other parents. Target handled it really well and actually offered the indignant client to join their team and help them change their children’s clothing line. A decision that was met with wide approval by Target’s customer base and thus an issue was not only solved but turned into an opportunity for positive publicity.
Improve your product or service.
Customers could not only help you remove issues but also give you valuable insight into what could be significantly improved in your product or service. Depending on the improvement, you might even be able to charge more and find out that people are happy to pay a little extra for more convenience. Often times, it is improvements you might never even have thought about but a lot of your customers see as necessary without you being aware of it. Always keep in mind that even if only one client has expressed the need for an improvement, it might actually resonate with hundreds and thousands of others.
One of the many such examples is the razor company Harry’s who sell razors through an online subscription. One of the best product improvements came from a client of theirs who wasn’t satisfied with the locking sound the blade cartridge made when it attached to the handle. The client, who is an engineer, actually went through the trouble of improving the design himself so that it gives a more reassuring click to let you know it is secure. He then sent in images and drawings of what he had done to Harry’s.
It shows you what an incredibly valuable input customers can have but also how they can go to great lengths to help when loyal.
Oftentimes customers’ observations and suggestions are an excellent source of innovation. Some of the best, most successful products and services have come into being after a customer complaint or an enquiry. Surely, if somebody thought of and enquired about a product or a service, somebody else would be happy to avail of it too.
A number of companies actively seek ideas from clients to improve their offerings and come up with new services, processes or products. Among them are large multinational businesses such as Microsoft, FedEx, General Motors, Starbuck, etc.
While in these cases a specific idea is solicited from clients, client inspiration is often times more indirect. An excellent example is Valusion, an e-commerce software company. A client of the company complained that two fraudulent orders had been placed on her website. This in turn led to the development of Fraud Score, a feature that assigns a risk rating to incoming orders based on several factors, including the shopper’s billing address, IP address, and recent credit card activity.
Bill Gates once said:
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
I firmly believe that customers are indeed the key to any business’ success.
People often expect for business growth to be a result of a complex combination of smart decisions and moves as well as a significant amount of resources. The truth however is that, in business as in life, being successful often comes down to simple but consistent actions. Actions such as listening to your customers which can not only help you retain existing customers but also gain new ones as it inspires business improvements and innovation both in terms of products and services.
If you would like to know more on how to get relevant customer feedback and make the most of it, and how to generally grow your business, please don’t hesitate to touch base with me. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.