Customer connection expert Kristina Evey posed the following rhetorical question in a column on businessdelivered.com: What's the best way to serve and know your customers better?
Her answer is simple but profound: You ask them about their needs, wants, pains and ideas, as they relate to your products and services and in general, too. Without doing this, a lot of businesses believe they are meeting customers’ needs—but in reality, they are missing the mark.
Understanding that deep customer knowledge needs to be built over time, where can you start now?
Forbes.com contributor Dave Lavinsky says that one of the great frustrations of building and running a business is that over time, you’ll probably get to spend less time with your customers. So he suggests One Simple Way to Know Your Customers: holding events. Lavinsky says that this direct customer contact will help you better understand their needs. At the same time, you can be selling—the energy and conviviality of an event usually heightens receptivity to your pitch. This is also why events are perfect places to both get customer testimonials and to energize your staff.
From one streamlined idea to 66! In inc.com, sales guru Harvey MacKay discusses his customer knowledge-centered approach to business. (MacKay is also a motivational speaker and author, whose titles include Swim With the Sharks and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt.)
In 66 Things You Should Know About Your Customers, MacKay says that all his salespeople must answer 66 questions to prove they know their customers. And none of the questions can be about which products they buy. MacKay’s Golden Rule of Selling? Know Your Customer.
MacKay calls these the MacKay 66 and says the point is to get to know—really know—the people who decide to buy your products or services. And the profile focuses heavily on who they are as a person—aside from business: What do they like and dislike? What are their accomplishments? What’s most important to them? In other words, what makes them tick?
As a small business, chances are you’ll never know 66 things about each one of your customers. But you probably don’t need to. MacKay’s principles still apply, though. What do you really know about your customers as people, not just as consumers? Are you building files of information that enable you to personalize offers and emails—or recognize them when they come in? And most importantly, have you enlisted your employees in this worthwhile effort? Remember that the best way to learn information about your customers is to ask them.
MacKay says that excellent service is possible only when you know your customers as human beings—which will build loyalty and keep your customers from leaving. He references Selling in Tough Times, in which author Tom Hopkins offers five tips for cementing these relationships:
- Loyalty is built over time, with consistent attention to your customers.
- End every conversation with a customer with ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’
- Have a multi-pronged approach for building customer loyalty with phone calls, emails and even direct mail.
- Know how to approach customers who have issues or complaints and use that to build their trust and loyalty.
- Seek out other companies that are known for their loyal client bases. Study them—and incorporate some of their strategies into your business.
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