Just about everything, I’d say. Yet how we go about satisfying our customers is a rocky and variable road. In fact, sometimes there seems to be a sliding scale on how we achieve customer satisfaction.
Perhaps we should take the customer’s perspective and see ourselves from their eyes. And then compare what they perceive as a satisfying vendor relationship with what we – professionally and ethically – are willing to do on their behalf. Because “going the extra mile” on behalf of your customer(s) isn’t the same as “customized hoop jumping” depending on who that customer is or how big their account is with your company.
Really. I just wrote that. And I mean it.
We’ve been doing some home remodeling recently. So I’ve worked with quite a few contractors and subcontractors on a number of not-so-small projects. And yes, you guessed it. I’m tough to deal with in terms of the vendor selection process. And I am the first one to provide incredibly positive feedback for a job well done. Or negative feedback in the case of a hotel I stayed at several weeks ago.
If you get it right, you have my business for life. And, being in the business that I am, I will be your most earnest advocate. I believe that’s called Word of Mouth. If you get it wrong, I will provide point-by-point customer feedback because it’s important for your business as well. I want your business to succeed, in the long run.
Because it’s all about customer retention. And having your customers advocate on your behalf.
If you think that your current customers are going to advocate for your company with something like: “Yeah, this is the firm for you. They were lowest in price. I got a real bargain based on price” you are, well, kidding yourselves. It’s not always about cost or even the price- quality discussion. There’s “something else” involved.
And that “something else” is what the customer perceives as being of Value. It’s up to you to identify the Value you bring to the table across your entire customer base. And if Value for one customer is different than Value for another, your Value Proposition must look like a patchwork quilt. Something for everyone but nothing constant for you to hang your hat on. Which means your employees aren’t sure which hoop they are jumping through, either. Which means you and your employees are chasing a constantly moving target. Which isn’t a great strategy for business development.
And for you entrepreneurs, you do have a distinct advantage before you start chasing around for clients. I recommend doing a lot of self-examination to make sure that you are working within your capabilities, imagination, professionalism and ethics. In other words, are you driving within the range of your headlights? I think this is called risk management. I like to call it reality-check time.
Customer satisfaction, aka your customer retention strategy, involves assessing the available human, equipment and financial assets available (your Capabilities) and weighing them against Customer Wants as compared with Customer Needs. And Customer Needs should be a constantly growing template in your Composite of Ideal Customers. If you compare Who You Are with Whom You Work Best, you will find that there is a range of types of customers out there that are well suited for your business. Identify them and go after them. These are the customers you have the best chances of satisfying… and retaining. And what a great Word of Mouth base for business development they can become.
How many of us take the time to assess our strengths and weaknesses and create a company and internal teams that support Who We Are? Certainly the panic of the economy has caused a lot of us to do business with any and everyone who promises to compensate us. And how profitable have these ill-chosen projects been, in the long run?
For those of you in the process of identifying new markets and new customers (and I suspect all of you are), I urge you to take the time to examine your strengths and weaknesses and drive within the range of your headlights. Identify yourself first. Then you will be more successful honoring the Voice of Your Customers.
Think about it. It’s something that remains first and foremost in what I do every day.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.