Why businesses need to be obsessed with their customers?
Updated: Mar 17
We've always been very customer focused but the concept of being obsessed with customers hit MD Hayley Harris when listening to a podcast recently. We totally agreed with Angus Thirwell CEO of Hotel Chocolat when he talked about being obsessed with his customers and felt excited by his passion, he is sincerely interested in using them to taste and feedback on new products and using their feedback - after all, feedback drives continuous improvement.
Many though are far from being obsessed with customers and in our view, in today’s customer driven world, it is dangerous to not be. We’ve found it fascinating how under the strain of a global pandemic, businesses, particularly in the banking and retain sector, have been so focused on logistics that customer service feels no longer a priority.
There have been stories of companies not answering calls and emails and commonly voicemails saying ‘we are too busy right now to take your call’.
Is this really acceptable? And does any of this sound like your business?
So, what does it mean to be ‘obsessed ‘ with customers? Is it going too far? And how far do you need to go to be truly dedicated to the voice of your customer? Do you hear your staff moaning about customers and joking about their emails, is this a culture that really supports learning from customers? And is much of their feedback being lost in hidden emails or notes on the database?
We hope we can agree that the days of annual customer surveys and adding notes to the database is just not enough, and to really be customer centric we simply must do more and have a framework for the business to be truly customer focused, it doesn't happen by accident. The shift from profit to customers will deliver results.
At Ginger we believe in advice that is practical and deliverable so I have summarised the first steps in shifting to a customer focused business in the LARC model:
Simple to say, more difficult to do. Listen to your customers, really listen and take on their feedback about their experience and how they felt during the transaction. Ask deeper questions of them based on what they have said, this demonstrates your empathy with them and be transparent if things go wrong. Show customers what action you are going to take as a result of the feedback and close the loop so they feel recognised and rewarded for their time. You can demonstrate this while talking on the phone, but also by responding to messages and comments on social media engagement – this is also public so others will of course see it to.
If you can create relationships with your customers and build a loyal audience and community they will become even more valuable, use them as part of your business development. Ask for their thoughts on new products and services, they will become your loyal test bed.
Don’t leave the feedback to the front of house staff or sales team, give Management the chance to have customer feedback too. The events industry is a great way for businesses to meet customers face to face, but many of them are on hold at the moment, so look for other ways and reach out to your customers such as using live videos on social media. It really is as straightforward as picking up the phone, consider a different approach to new and existing customers too.
Your business has the opportunity to be fluid with customers, treating them as individuals and recognising their needs and wants are different - adapting to change and quick thinking. Can the business make small changes to make the customer feel like their purchase or experience is being tailored? Things like adapting quickly to requests for changes in delivery times or product specifications without fuss shows that you recognise your customers as individuals and gives you the chance to personalise and go beyond expectations too. Technology can go a long way to support this kind of change too with personalised preferences and recommendations on products that compliment what they have previously purchased.
It is about also putting in place the ability for your teams to be adaptable, we know they can do it as we’ve seen how adaptable they can be for the last 12 months. It is a chance to be creative too and look at different ways to deliver outcomes. Take the time to review your processes and see what flexibility there is to be adaptable, look at the lines of authority and decision making, are they all necessary and are they slowly down your process.
Annual and quarterly surveys are not enough, but they are a start. If you do decide to survey your customers consider carefully the design of the questions after the objectives have been determined, and what do you plan to do with the responses?
If you are not invested in making changes and using the data then don’t do the survey. Save the time and look at a different route, there are lots of ways of getting quick engagement now such as polls or Instagram live where people can comment while you talk.
You need to be looking at every single purchase, every touch point not just the end of sale. You will have data at your fingertips for this, from your website analytics to your social media engagement through to basics such as your customer inbox. Can you bring together all the data and information you have into a single dashboard? Something your management team can review weekly, or monthly depending on how often things change. By bringing together your management information it is also easier to see the gaps.
This process will take time, see it as a culture shift in your business and not a one-off task.
Probably the most critical part of this change is embedding a genuine sincere culture for customer feedback, an environment where positive feedback is shared and celebrated and where negative feedback is equally so. Be proactive about sharing on your virtual team calls, on your website and share directly with staff.
Add to your staff meetings/calls the agenda item customers and make it really obvious and up front that you want to talk, ask staff to share things that they have learnt from customers and discuss how that has impacted the business.
Demonstrate that the management team as well as sales team are talking to customers, and take it away from simply a transactional process to a culture for talking to customers – be it over the phone, email or through your social media channels. There are many many options for engagement.
Owning the feedback is key, the last thing you need as a business owner or MD is that all the feedback that is being gathered is being shared on a case by case with the management team, this will be time consuming and unproductive. You need to empower your staff to use the information and talk to customers, acting on what they can themselves.
Now is the time to be obsessed with your customers; put yourself in their shoes, live and breathe their experience and in turn it will feed the growth of your company.
Five things to do now:
Create a plan to engage with your customers, with changes due to Covid you are probably less engaged with them so change that today!
Everyone in the company needs to listen, not just the sales team and front of house.
Consider what changes you need to do to technology to realise this plan, perhaps a dashboard that brings together all your data .
Look at all sources of customer interaction and how that experience is working; at the point of placing an order, all forms of communications and social media .
Discuss with your staff about this business focus, signify it as a clear message of change .
If this article has made you want to discuss more then please drop us an email, we will be more than be happy to just discuss the subject and offer some advice: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck putting your customers first and building a strategy around it!
NB: Podcast source https://holly.co/podcast/angus-thirwell/