Have You Walked A Mile In Your Customer’s Shoes Lately?

(By Brian Moran)

What benefits are derived by looking at your business from your customers’ perspective? The most obvious benefit is you get to see where the holes are in your company. You also get a better understanding your strengths. Maybe there is a reason, unknown to you, as to why some of your customers are buying your product or service. A less obvious benefit of this exercise is to determine why you are either losing customers or not winning business. Where in the system, from creating awareness to conversion, are potential customers turning away from you and going somewhere else?

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. As business owners, everything we do is geared toward making them happy and staying loyal to our products and/or services. But how much do we really know about our customers? I regularly challenge my clients by asking them “Why do your customers buy from you?”It amazes me when companies, large and small, don’t take the time to walk a mile in their customer’s shoes.

What benefits are derived by looking at your business from your customers’ perspective? The most obvious benefit is you get to see where the holes are in your company. You also get a better understanding your strengths. Maybe there is a reason, unknown to you, as to why some of your customers are buying your product or service. A less obvious benefit of this exercise is to determine why you are either losing customers or not winning business. Where in the system, from creating awareness to conversion, are potential customers turning away from you and going somewhere else?

Here are eight ways for you to play the role of your current customer or potential customer. Get your employees involved in the exercise, as they too need to better understand how the process of acquiring and maintaining customers works. You should also schedule this exercise on a regular basis, either monthly or quarterly, to track progress and keep your finger on the pulse of your business.

1. Create a review sheet. You want to track specific areas of your business and rate your experience, as a customer or potential customer, on a scale from 1 to 10. The sheet should include all areas of interaction between your customers and your company (e.g. retail sales, customer service, online experience, phone service). Have a handful of employees, partners, vendors, and business advisors also participate in the exercise so you can compare notes. Did they have a similar experience? Where do they see weaknesses in your company?

2. Define the weakest link. What’s the weakest section or area of your business? Is it customer service? Pricing? Reliability? Poor reviews? Once you recognize your weakest link, what’s your plan to turn it into a strength?

3. Evaluate your retail. If you sell to retail stores, buy your product in four or five different ones. How is it positioned on the shelves versus your competition? Talk to salespeople and ask them for information on your product. Are they knowledgeable? Is your product competitively priced in each store? If you own a retail store, hire secret shoppers to run a similar exercise with your employees. Are they friendly? Is it a pleasant experience to shop in your store or do people walk in and walk out?

4. Hear what they’re saying. For service professionals, word-of-mouth referrals are critical to finding new customers. What are people saying to your potential customers about your services? Do you have an army of advocates who can easily articulate why you are the best roofer or doctor on the planet? Ask your committee to have friends recommend two or three companies in your industry and find out why they chose certain companies.

5. Order online. If you have an e-commerce site, order your own product online. Is the process easy or difficult? How many steps did it take to complete the order? Does your website have sharing tools on each page of content? Customers love to share good content with friends via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social platforms. Run the same drill when you visit competitors’ websites. How often is their information being shared? Some share bars include counters, so you can see the number of times a page or article was shared.

6. Make a phone call. This is one of the easiest and fastest ways to lose potential customers and upset even your most loyal clients. When was the last time you called your business pretending to be a prospect? How were you greeted? Were you kept on hold for an unreasonable amount of time? How quickly were you able to get the information you needed?

7. Search your business. Many business owners understand the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) and having your company appear on the first page of sites such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo whenever someone does a search by certain keywords. Use different search engines and conduct searches by your most important keywords. Apply the same exercise within certain websites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and your industry association websites.

One of my clients is an attorney in New Jersey. We did a search on LinkedIn for “NJ,” “attorney,” and “bankruptcy.” Of the 850 results that appeared, he wasn’t listed in the top 100 (even though he’s regarded as one of the top attorneys in the state). The reason for his exclusion? He didn’t fill out the Summary section of his LinkedIn profile. I pointed to the top results, which listed the three keywords several times each in the section. His potential clients won’t find him if he doesn’t show up in the results.

8. Reach out to unhappy customers. Visit review websites such as Yelp, Merchant Circle, Angie’s List, and Yahoo to find out what people are saying about your retail business or service. Customers also use Facebook and Twitter to either praise or condemn products, services, and establishments. If you’re a service-based business, I would venture to guess that you’ve already had your share of unhappy customers telling their friends and followers about a bad experience with your company. The best piece of advice I can offer is to acknowledge the comment and diffuse the situation. Let any followers know that you are working on correcting the customer’s complaint and then try to take the conversation offline. If you can successfully handle the problem, most customers (most of the time) will then follow up their complaint with a tweet or a post to let people know that you came through for them.

If you’re going to invest money, time, and resources into your company, then it’s imperative to know that your efforts aren’t being wasted. Take the time to learn the needs of your customers and potential customers. Walk a mile in their shoes to better understand why they either buy or don’t buy from you. Repeat the process on a regular basis and get your employees and other key members of your company involved in the exercise. The results will be a stronger, more secure business with satisfied customers.

(Source: Openforum)

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