I started my marketing career at Procter & Gamble, the world leader in consumer marketing. Early on at P&G you learn that much their tremendous success has been based on a simple idea – understand the needs and wants of consumers, and then provide products that delight them. If you can understand customers’ needs better than anyone else, then you’re positioned to delight them better than anyone else, and your business will grow.
When I was in the restaurant industry I was able to get up-close and personal with our customers every day. However, regardless of your industry there are great ways to learn from your customers and use what you learn to beat competition. One of the major things that differentiate the billion dollar companies from the little guys is how they listen to their customers and what they do with what they learn.
There are five big things that you can quickly, easily and cheaply accomplish through customer feedback.
- Know how you’re doing. A satisfied customer will come back over and over, and bring friends. An unsatisfied customer won’t come back. If you track your customer satisfaction over time, you’ll know if there are problems right away. Also, it will give you a benchmark to beat, and a way for your employees to know how they’re doing.
- Fix things that are wrong. the first step to fixing a service issue is knowing that it exists. It’s always better to hear the bad news, because you can do something about it. Many times a bad experience can become a great experience when you go above-and-beyond to fix the customer’s issue.
- Get new ideas. Your customers can be your best source of new ideas. Is there a new offering you could create, a new promotion, or a product improvement? Good ideas can come from anywhere.
- Evaluate your ideas. If you’ve got new ideas you’re considering, it’s always important to bounce them off of your customers before you launch. Is your idea a winner or a dud? Get feedback and it doesn’t take long to know the answer. Also, customers may improve on your idea.
- Build a better relationship. Customers want to feel important. Asking for their feedback is a great way for them to feel more connected to your business. The more connected they feel, the more they’ll come back, and the more friends they’ll bring with them.
But how? Isn’t this difficult, expensive, and time consuming? It doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to get started right now, for free or cheap.
- Ask your customers. Really. Just have a conversation.
- Satisfaction forms. Just print them out. Or you can use a fancier online feedback system.
- Surveys. Create a customer email database, and send them periodic surveys.
- Social Media. Facebook makes it really easy to get feedback.
- Focus Group. Get a few customers together, give them some food, and ask them questions.
You’ll be amazed how quickly you can improve your business by just being purposeful about customer feedback. As a marketing speaker, I meet with thousands of business owners each year. Many of the small business owners I speak with use simple customer feedback to make dramatic changes in their revenue and profitability.