I have found nothing more educational in business than engaging with customers. My career span comes from an environment where customers were such an effective sound board in everything the organization did. The involvement of real customers in your business pushes it to a much productive, effective and a new level.
As a new kid in the block, I am making use of the learnings in shaping my business. The lessons learned from customers are ranging from Service Research, product improvements, competitor intelligence and customer experience.
1. Customer Experience – Customers who are bold in sharing their experiences about your business give you an insight that is rare and expensive. This experience is an opportunity to get to know the emotional side of your business. It helps you perform a number of activities to enhance or improve whatever experiences customers are experiencing. This engagement helps you to re-look at your customer service strategy and ensure that it is still relevant to deal with the kind of customers you have in your business. This focus eliminates all poor performance areas and pay more attention to good experiences customers are sharing with you. Getting experiences from customers who know more than you do is also an important educational tool for your business that is still growing. Be receptive to such and encourage it.
2. Customer Service Strategy – Service strategies are created with a customer in mind. They are there to increase customer relationships, eliminate all unnecessary huddles between your business and the customer. Engaging with customers gives you a platform to assess your strategies, rectify and improve whatever needs to be improved. Customers become the perfect sound board in giving you the correct feedback about what is and not working. Taking the time to engage with customers gives you a perfect platform to gain a competitive advantage over competitors that are neglecting customers. Their feedback is a key to gaining insight and it empowers you to improve critical customer aspects in your business.
3. Product/Service Pricing – As a new business in the market, you turn to use various number of pricing strategies. Pricing strategies for most new incomers at a lower level of their entrepreneurial journey are sometimes misaligned and detrimental to the new business. More often we over price products and services because we want to break-even quicker. This approach has a negative impact on customer’s pockets and makes it hard for your business to attract and retain customers. We all don’t get things correct the first time, but listening to customers gives you direction in terms of how your prices are structured. Customers will always inform you if they are the correct target market or if your products or services are under or over priced. Your attention to such feedback allows you to make required adjustments.
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4. Market Changes or developments – Your customers are your competitors customers, they don’t belong to you alone. They are your eyes and ears out in the environment, They often get the first hand experience and are willing to share it with you. This is free information and education on what is happening in their industries or other industries. Once you make the time, they are always willing to share. This information is quite valuable to your business and provides continuous study of your competitors.
5. Competitor insights Customers are your big competitor analysts and are sure willing to tell you what you are not doing but your competitors are doing. Although they sometimes use this insight as their negotiation power to get more value. Paying attention to what they are saying about competitors is gold to you as a business owner. Encourage it and make use of the feedback to assess if you are still on track.
Business owners often think that someone else must engage with customers on their behalf. They come into business and be swamped with a lot of things except engaging customers. This is a big mistake for both small and big businesses, customers are the main drivers of your existence and they decide if you stay longer in business or not. Spending time with them ensures that your business is definitely productive and profitable, but more over, is sustainable.