customer satisfaction

Do You Know Why Your Customers Choose You?

customer-loyalty-mj-experiaWith more and more competing services spreading around the world, it is becoming easier to create look-alike companies and services. And yet, standing out from the crowd is one of the most important requirements of any company. Being different gives customers a good reason to choose your company over one of the many lookalikes.

There are many ways to be different. Offering a unique and better service is a good place to start. However, adding layers of innovative services or developing a brand with special attributes can also make you look and feel different.

One of the most important roles that market research can play is to find out what your potential audience wants and needs, and use these findings to help differentiate your company or service offering.

With almost two decades of market research expertise, I have outlined below a few compelling reasons as to why you should survey your customers. As for the process of creating the survey, how the survey is conducted, and what methods can be used to follow up, I’ll leave those for another blog later in the month!

Customer Loyalty: Understand the magic – what they like about you and what they dislike. Knowing what keeps them coming back over and over again is the secret to your success. Loyalty is the magic when they start talking about you and referring you to others.

Customer Satisfaction: Satisfied customers are those who do not have outstanding negative issues concerning you on their mind. This doesn’t mean everything has always been perfect. Sometimes things may not have gone all right. In all such situations you gave your customers a chance to talk to you. Sympathetic listening to customers is essential. An online survey, or better yet, a personal phone call from a third party, provide an excellent way for your customers to have a chance to get their side of the story out without being interrupted. A second essential is follow-through. Proper tools of analysis will help you segment your customers into different categories based on what you need to do in return. Then show them you “heard” them and are putting their words into action.

Effective Communication: By inviting customers to talk to you through careful design of your survey or asking key questions in a telephone conversation can effectively inform your customers about things they may not know or remind them of important changes or innovations in your organization. This is clever because customers will take your survey more seriously than most other communication you send them.

Spotting Trends: Beyond understanding the drivers behind loyalty and satisfaction of your customers, you can benefit from the wisdom of the masses by asking them for their ideas and spotting patterns in their feedback. Spotting such trends ahead of competition could offer you a significant advantage.

Think about your own loyalty as a customer and why you choose certain brands or companies to work with – heck, knowing what your customers value is what’s behind those great beer commercials who put their customer in their brand experience! Listen to your customers; let them show you what they value and once you act on their input, enjoy watching your business grow!

When was the last time you conducted a customer survey? Did you send out an online survey or did you call your customers? Did you follow up on the customer feedback and if so, how? Do you feel you did a professional job or do you think you should have hired a marketing firm to conduct it for you?

“You Like Me… You Really Like Me!”

customer-survey-1

Coined by Sally Field in 1985, the infamous (and actually misquoted) “like me” line was delivered when she won an academy award for her performance in Places in the Heart. This saying is also true for many SMB owners who tell me that their customers choose them “because they like our amazing customer service”, or “our quick response times” or “our knowledge of the business”.

It’s not surprising that no matter how long a SMB has been in business, the business owner feels they know their customers well.  However, what is surprising is that many of these business owners will defend how well they know their customers based on a “gut” feeling or “years dealing with their customers”, but only a few of them can actually validate their claims. When there are literally thousands of choices for customers to choose from, your company really needs to understand not just who they are, but who your customers are and why they would choose to buy from you versus your competitors.

The best method I recommend SMB owners use to help them better understand their customers is to create a customer survey. It shouldn’t be more than 10 questions that your customer can easily answer, and it will help you determine why they have chosen your service/product. Here are a few tips on what should be on your survey to help your business get the best insights and results:

  1. Type of Questions – The questions should be mostly open-ended. You are looking for as much data as you can get, so you don’t want a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
  2. Professionalism – The survey needs to be professionally written and laid-out.
  3. Delivery – Offer this survey online via a private landing page, or as a direct email to clients as an interactive PDF. If your customer base is small, make personal calls or better yet, make the survey part of your client meetings.
  4. Incentive – Depending on how difficult you feel it may be to get customers to fill out your survey, you may want to offer some sort of incentive, such as the first 15 customers to reply will win a $25 gift certificate.
  5. Appreciation – Once you know a customer has filled in the survey, you need to establish a mechanism for saying thank you.
  6. End Date – Make sure you provide an end date for the survey so you can analyze the results.
  7. Provide Timely Feedback and Actionable Items – Once you have analyzed the results of the survey, share the top-level results with your clients in a timely manner. Make a point to note how their input has helped you better serve them by outlining some actionable items.
  8. Communicate – As the actionable items are completed, make a point to communicate it to your customers so they feel “heard”. This communication validates that you care about their opinion, which in turn builds loyalty.

In marketing, if you want them to “like you”, you need to spend the time to find out why they do, so you can build marketing strategies that target their needs.

Do you feel it is critical to your marketing success to understand your customer? Have you ever conducted a formal customer survey?  If so, what advantage did this give you in the marketplace? If not, what other methods do you use to ascertain what your customers want?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

If Your Clients Aren’t Important, Then Who Is?

It’s the beginning of a New Year, and new opportunities for small businesses abound… or so I would have thought.

Only one week into 2013, I have found myself unimpressed by, and amazed at the lack of basic customer service that I have encountered when trying to buy services from several small businesses.

To be honest, this experience is not new to this year. I have found in the last six months that, despite the fact that providing excellent customer service is the foundation for business growth, many small business owners are caring less and less about providing for their customers’ needs.

There has never been a time in recent history when we have seen such a boom in new business growth:

  • 543,000 new companies are started in the U.S. every month; (according to Forbes Magazine)
  • The 50 and over age group is the fastest growing segment of new business owners, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of start-ups in Canada;
  • The self-employed in Canada are more educated – a third have a university degree;
  • 70 per cent of new businesses in Canada are started by men but women tend to be more successful;
  • Businesses focussed on educational services (up almost 65 per cent since 2007) and health care are (up almost 20 per cent) are growing fastest in Canada;

 

(http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1041489/canada-to-see-unprecedented-boom-in-new-businesses-in-the-coming-decade-cibc)

Although this is very exciting news, from a marketing perspective, it also means that there is increased competition among small businesses. More than ever, businesses need to not only differentiate themselves, but also to provide excellent customer service, to present themselves in a professional manner, and to be accountable for their actions, in order to attract and generate long-term growth.

Considering the number of hard-working small business owners that I know, who are truly devoted to serving their customers, as well as being aware of the statistics which I have shared with you above, I’m always shocked when I come across SMB’s who appear to want business, but then don’t respond professionally when a new customer (me, that is) comes knocking.

customerservicephone

My process for finding a new service might sound familiar: I ask colleagues, consultants and friends for referrals for the service I seek.  Then, I narrow down the list to the top 2 or 3, and I look them up online. Once I find the one provider that stands out, I usually contact them either via their site, or with an email.  I wait a day or two.  If I still hear nothing, I pick up the phone and call them, usually leaving a message (as often, no actual person answers the phone). I wait another couple of days. Sometimes, I may email or call them one last time, and if I then still receive no communication from them, I write them off. In the past week, I have contacted three small businesses, and not one of them has called or emailed me back.

As I said in last week’s blog, I attribute much of my marketing agency’s success to the fact that I value each and every one of my clients. As such, my message to small business owners and entrepreneurs is to make your customers feel that they are important, and that their business matters.  Treat them the way you’d like to be treated.  If a potential client emails you, calls you, or contacts you in any way, get back to them within 24 hours. If you can’t do this yourself, make sure you have a back-up plan in place, so that you don’t lose their interest.

Bottom line – make sure you let your potential clients know just how important they are.

What customer service practices does your company follow?  Do you think asking for a response within 24 hours is too much to ask in this highly competitive world? Let me know in the comments below.