It may seem a little obvious, but in building a customer-centric company, you really do have to ask your customers for their help. You can’t do it in a vacuum and expect to succeed with any type of authenticity. You have to ask your customers for their feedback, and more importantly, you have to do something with the information you learn.
Most customers do not speak out if they are mildly dissatisfied or just a little put off by something. Sadly, as consumers we have gotten used to being treated at a satisfactory level. Would you know if something minor had bothered one of your customers? The really good news is that there are lots of easy and inexpensive ways to do listen to your customers today.
One way to get feedback is to survey your customers — post-purchase, after a project is completed, annually. Online survey tools are simple to use and really inexpensive. And there is nothing like the personal touch, especially if you do bigger long-term projects. Give your clients a call and ask them to critique your delivery. Beg them to be as harsh as they can be. Or send a paper survey — they still work.
You also need to be listening to what your customers are saying on the Internet – in blogs, on Twitter, on review sites like Yelp – really anywhere. There are some great tools out there (like NutshellMail) that allow you to keep tabs on this kind of activity without having to spend all day at your computer watching it in real time.
And of course, one of the best ways to listen to your customers is to stay connected to them on Facebook and Twitter, where you can monitor their happiness and frustrations, can share photos and news of interest, and can engage customers in dialogue when a topic is relevant. You can also ask them to email or call you with their feedback, or place anonymous polls on your website, in your email newsletter, or on social media sites.
People love to talk about themselves, their interests, and their challenges. If you give them a platform to do so, you’re helping to create a bond with your customers that will go beyond each individual transaction. By allowing customers to speak their mind, you’re letting them know that you have a vested interest in what they’re doing with your products or services, and that you’re as invested in their success as they are.
And don’t just listen to your customers. Act on what they tell you. Share the results of any feedback you receive, and explain that changes you make will be a direct result of what customers have told you. When you really listen to people (and they see that it’s not lip service), they’ll be more apt to share their thoughts because they know their opinions won’t be falling on deaf ears.
I have always been blown away by how generous people are with their time when they see you’re really listening. I strongly encourage you to find out the reality of how your customers perceive you. Don’t assume you know how they feel. Test your assumptions and beliefs regularly. Keep checking back — taking the pulse of your business — so you can make changes and solve problems early.