Most markets are saturated, and these days there’s rarely such a thing as a truly USP (unique selling point). In fact, most of us now have a whole collection of competitors that are in some way comparable to us. It’s harder than ever to win and retain customer loyalty, so how can companies nurture a culture that listens to the customer voice in order to build a sustainable future?
In today’s busy workplaces, most of us are guilty of complacency from time to time. The demands of the day mean we attack tasks in order of urgency. In his famous time management framework, the great late Stephen Covey said we should organise priorities by differentiating between those activities that are important, and those that are urgent. Important activities, he suggests, are those linked to the business goals, where urgent activities are those that need immediate attention. He helpfully pointed out that most of us focus on the urgent most of the time, and many don’t ever manage to achieve the important goals, due to time limitations.
This tendency to be always firefighting means we often don’t find the time to reach out to customers and to talk about the things that are important to the changing backdrop of their business. This fundamental chink in our service provision can leave gaps for our competitors to jump in. So how can we make sure we connect with customers well enough to maintain and grow precious customer satisfaction levels? Read on for 4 sure-fire ways of capturing the hearts and minds of your customers.
Survey your customers at least annually
As online surveys continue to decline, or become disproportionately weighted by customers with extreme views (very happy or very unhappy), companies are increasingly deploying alternative methods for reaching their customer voice. Outsourcing surveys to professional researchers like Blue Donkey has become an effective way of demonstrating care, whilst generating valuable impartial insight about the key factors your customers consider to be strengths and weaknesses. Such surveys provide robust evidence for ISO:9001 or other quality management systems, as well as providing valuable data to help companies cement their relationship with customers.
Pick up the phone
Covey’s penetrating insights include being proactive. In his famous 7 Habits he promotes the benefits of proactively reaching out to people and listening carefully to the things that are important to them, in order to better meet their needs and, in doing so, to become more successful ourselves. This kind of customer-centred activity leads to valuable, company-changing insights. It also gives the customer a sense of service and care that they are unlikely to experience from your competitors.
Keep digging for the unwitting messages
Becoming attuned to the subtle unwitting messages communicated by customers is undoubtably one of the valuable skills we learn with experience. Customers cannot be happy all the time, but unless we listen carefully to the things they’re not saying, as well as the things they are, we may not capture the full picture. At Blue Donkey we use techniques such as Probing, to help dig a bit deeper. This might include prompts such as, ‘That’s interesting, tell me a bit more about it.’ Only by uncovering a true picture of how a customer feels can we ever get close to meeting their needs sustainably.
Get to the Nitty-gritty
Even today, some companies deal with the big challenges using the FANBOSASYHI method (find a nice bit of sand and stick your head in it). Undeniably there is sometimes an argument for Watch and Wait, the strategy that a surprising number of us have adopted for dealing with Brexit for example. However, almost always there is merit in engaging customers in an honest, open dialogue about what an organisation can do to better meet and adapt to the changing needs of their buyer base, even if this means we have to face some painful truths. Getting to the nitty-gritty means we can flex the control-levers that make customers happy, instead of the ones that make us happy.
Without knowing what clients and customers are thinking, we are powerless to adapt to the changing face of our markets. In most B2B environments the key success factors are related to quality of service, the human element and the ability to flex around the changing needs of customers. As is often the case in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
If you would like to find out how Blue Donkey can help with customer satisfaction surveys or market research contact us on 01353 724 880.