Business success relies on offering customers solutions to their pain points, that they want badly enough to pay for and in ways that ensure they won’t dream of buying from anyone else. We know that.
The question is how to assess what that looks like for your company. With a New Year, it could be the perfect time for a new approach and to check if you are still ahead of the game.
Benchmarking the competition
Let’s assume that you watch the news and are aware of trends in your market. But, how much do you currently know about your direct competition?
Google will easily identify the top companies in your sector, and LinkedIn will give you a mine of information from leadership profiles, how big they are, and even who their customers are. Glassdoor and Yelp will provide you with press reports and social media a public profile. It is easy to check on their current pricing.
By studying all these key areas, it becomes easier to see what they are offering. From that, you can see what you could duplicate and what you can do differently be it in service, quality, or price. Studying how they connect with potential customers should also give you some ideas.
Benchmarking their strengths and weaknesses will help you re-establish and increase your unique differential. You should be questioning how you can deliver better service, and develop a more customer-centric mission. Study their negative points and take advantage of them by doing better.
Formulate a barrage of ideas on how you can give customers a far superior experience.
Talk to your customers
Data is crucial, but there are different approaches to accumulating it. You can send out the standard customer feedback surveys, but I have never found them very revealing. People rarely spend time completing them, and their scope is limited.
An alternative approach, and one of the best tips I ever received, was to draw up a list of half a dozen key comparison points with your competitors. From knowledge of your company and market, the exact list could vary, but you might choose product quality, design, ease of use, price, speed, or customer service.
Speak to a selection of customers and ask if they will help you improve. Then, email those five or six points and ask them to score you and your three main competitors in each area.
The results may surprise you. Complacencies, where your success has slipped, may well be revealed, but so will your strengths and where your competitors are weak. These are your golden areas of opportunity to differentiate and dominate.
Another, often untapped, mine of information is your customer support department. Ensure every single query or complaint is logged and the patterns of where these are mapped out. Then you see where you can improve.
Train the people in that department to go to others in the company till they get the answers the customers need. The first gain is that they will become more knowledgeable. But to really shake things up, ensure everyone, including you, works in that department on a regular basis. When everyone in the company knows the good and bad of how the customers are feeling, that is a game-changer.
Stand in your customers’ shoes
The very best customer service comes down to treating your customers how you would like to be treated yourself, plus giving yourself regular reminders that they are under zero obligation to buy from you. Never, ever take their custom for granted.
Outstanding customer service is one of the very best differentials. Yet many industries have not caught up with the concept that reactive sales are not enough. Other sectors are known for their dire treatment of customers and or sales techniques. These oceans are full of opportunity.
Relatively few companies respond quickly and clearly to enquiries. Instead, customers are forced to navigate the brick wall of a limited bot or hang on a phone until eventually cut off. Even when a human being deigns to intervene, too many believe that fobbing off customers with irrelevancies, blinding them with science, or being unhelpful till the customer disappears is the win they are looking for.
Instead, build trust with clarity and transparency in all your communications, and never keep the customer waiting. Set an auto-switch on your phone lines so if calls are not answered in a couple of minutes, the caller is asked if they want to be called back as soon as someone is free or given the option to book a call at a convenient time.
If currently, you rely on heavy-handed, long-term contracts, consider binning them and instead work on the principle that if customers like you, they will stay with you. It will be a massive win for sales and increase your focus on customer satisfaction.
Introduce empathy training for everyone in contact with customers. They will learn to accept that customers can be tired and angry and that the abuse is not personal. Give them training on diffusing heated situations and remind them that no customers equal no job. Make killing your customers’ troubles with kindness a mantra.
The Basics always win
The three strategies I am propounding are not rocket science. You may even have done some or all of them at some point in your business. But as time goes by, they get overlooked. You think of yourself as established and concentrate on other aspects of your business.
However, with the markets set to get even more crowded in the year ahead, nailing your differential and standing out from the competition will only become more vital.
Re-visit the competition and ensure you are benchmarking regularly. Check how your customers view you in comparison to others. And continually stand in your customers’ shoes and encourage your whole team to do likewise.
Only when you wholly understand your customers can you provide the very best solutions and service.