Monday, March 10, 2014

What your customers really want - but don’t always tell you

small business tips
If you run a small business, then you well know that your revenue stream is directly dependent upon your ability to deliver what your customer expects. However, now-days customer expectations are dynamic and evolving and your business needs to be capable and agile enough to keep pace with these changes.

Your business needs to be able to shift gears and adapt quickly – whether it’s to changing customer expectations or changing competitor practices – in order to remain poised for sustainable growth.  The following lists seven of the most essential things that customers expect from your business.

1.  Value

Your customer’s level of satisfaction depends upon the value he feels he has gained from the transaction, versus what it has cost him for the product or service that he has received. There is no single absolute measure of value as it entirely depends on the perception and taste of the beholder. However, there are a range of different metrics that can define value and it is important that your business recognises which of these metrics are suited for the kind of customers that you look to target.

For example, one particular customer visiting a restaurant may find value in how delicious the food is, while another customer would place more value and importance upon the overall ambience and service. At the end of the day, no customer wants to pay more than the perceived value of the benefits he is receiving. So at the very least, your business needs to understand the priorities of customers in your particular target market whilst also remaining aware of your competition, so you can tailor your unique value proposition accordingly.

2. A great service experience

As far as customer service is concerned, as you no doubt have already learned, the key is to ensure that this is consistently delivered and to the best of your ability. We are living in a society where customer is the king and you simply cannot afford to compromise on customer service. Customers want to be treated as special and a small businesses typically has a greater opportunity than their bigger competition to build a personal relationship with them. So make sure that if you are employing staff, that they are friendly and actually like dealing with people.

3. Trust earned through reliability

No business can afford to risk breaking the trust of their customers – which can be a long time earned, and yet very quickly lost. Avoid becoming the type of small business that will over-promise in an attempt to win a sale – and then fail to deliver what has been promised……. If your business does not keep a promise, it will obviously lead to a dissatisfied customer who loses trust in you. But worse still, they will often likely tell at least ten of their friends and family about their disappointing experience. So if you are going to make any type of mistake in your estimates of how long before a job will be completed or something is delivered, always be conservative in your estimate. You are better off under-promising and over-delivering to your customer.

4. Quality

If you want to win over your customers, provide them with a quality product or service every time. By doing this consistently, you will eventually create a brand that wins customer respect and loyalty. But if you’re really looking to differentiate yourself, then consider this “A good business gives customers what they want – a great business gives them what they need”……

Imagine for example, you go into one shoe store and ask for a particular pair of size 10 runners, which they get for you. You go into another store and ask for the same thing – and they say “Sure, I’ll get those for you sir – but may I ask what you will be using them for”. Then as it turns out, there is a pair of runners that is actually better suited for your requirements. Which of these two stores would you most likely return to next time?

5. Listen for the subtle messages

Do not expect that your customers will always tell you what they do not like about dealing with you – although admittedly a few will do this quite clearly!. However for the majority of your customers, you need to learn to recognise the subtle hints and signals that they give to you.
Many of your customers aren’t going to always tell you directly for example, that your employees are not well presented. They might instead make what seems a flippant remark – “Is today casual Friday?” Neither will they necessarily tell you that one of your employees seems a little sour or difficult to deal with – instead they might simply ask “Can I speak with Julie about this, she knows our history better than Rob” ….. You need to learn the art of listening to your customer’s subtle messages – before they send you a more direct message and vote with their feet.

6. Convenience at its best

Improving ease and convenience for the customer has been a driving force behind so many innovations in business. There are endless ways that your business can continue to innovate your product and services. One aim of your small business should be to regularly search for incremental opportunities to improve the experience of your customer.
This improvement could be in the nature of your product/ service itself, or in the way it is presented, or the way in which it is delivered, so their shopping experience becomes even more satisfying. By way of example, a shop that sells garment can offer to provide home delivery for an altered garment – there’s no doubt this would be very much appreciated by their customer.

7. Accountability

Customers are willing to deal with only those businesses that are accountable for the goods or services they are providing. Your business needs to be proactive in providing your customers with a prompt response in the event of a complaint. Sometimes we get things wrong – so your first priority is to solve the problem.
If you’ve made a mistake, then admit it quickly – and compensate your customer. Provide the product/service free, or at least provide it at a significant discount. Doing so, chances are that you will retain customer goodwill. And then once the problem has been solved – your next priority later will naturally be to prevent any recurrence. This often requires having a look at how your procedures can be improved.

Wrap up
Although you might well feel that you're aware of these small business tips on “best practice”, it can never-the-less be helpful to occasionally step back from the day-to-day operation of your business and  evaluate how well you are actually running your business. You may feel your business ticks all of these boxes and if so, that’s great...... Just watch out for that most devious of enemies - complacency.

Our guest author:

Boni Satani is an online marketer associated with Australia’s Leading 1300 & 1800 Number service provider – Zintel Communications. .

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to also take a look at Innovating & Adapting in Your Small Business