Tags: Business News, Community & Outreach
February 18, 2013Do you understand your customers? Are you aware of their priorities and interests? Have you reached out to them in a formal way to research what is keeping them awake at night? Is guesswork involved in setting your service standards?
Conducting customer research can unlock your potential to serve them better, make them happier and sell them more products and services.
Customer research should not be confused with market research.
While market research is focused on better understanding what products and services you should provide, customer research is centered around gaining a better understanding of how to better serve your customers.
Your customers are real people and their needs, concerns and motivations are very dynamic. Your knowledge of this information can help you align your service standards around what they want, rather than what you think they want.
This all starts with something quite simple — talking with your customers. This can be done formally through structured focus groups or surveys, or done by simply making it a regular part of your interactions with customers.
Asking them questions about their current environment, future plans, obstacles they are facing and how you can assist them will unlock information on how to better serve them.
The secret is how you aggregate this information, formulate strategies and service standards and construct feedback mechanisms to make sure you are meeting your customer's expectations. Customers have their own expectations of what they think they should be getting from you.
They also have perceptions of whether you are meeting those expectations. If perceptions meet expectations, you'll have happy customers. If they don't, they may take their business elsewhere.
Customer research helps you to establish "customer-defined" service standards. For example, your customers most likely have predetermined standards on how quickly you should respond to requests, the turnaround time for getting someone onsite to fix a problem or even something simple like returning a phone call. If you don't know these standards, then how will you know if you are meeting them?
Understanding customer-defined service standards also allows you to align your operating procedures to meet your customer's standards.
It allows you to train your employees about what matters and what doesn't. It enables you to continually measure your performance and improve areas that are falling short.
Research is key to understanding what your customers expect, what matters to them the most and how they are measuring your performance.
It takes the guesswork out of determining the best way to serve your customers. And the better you serve your customers, the more likely they'll remain customers and spend more money with you.
Dick Jones is the Founder & President of Simply Sales in Alpharetta, Ga. As a 4th generation sales professional, he has over 30 years of experience advising, coaching, consulting and working with small business owners. Office: 770-663-4681, web: www.simplysalesllc.com