We are increasingly seeing leadership teams becoming more removed from market realities. Simply put, they’re losing touch with their customers.
Technology and social media are providing powerful tools to better understand the markets and drive efficiencies, but are we losing touch at a customer level. The market has moved on and the million dollar question is: Have you and your business moved with the times?
The power base has shifted to your customers. Only those companies that connect with their customer, and more importantly adapt their business around what the customer wants and needs, will build a sustainable and successful business moving forward.
How to run your business with the customer in sight
Step1: Speak to your customers
When was the last time that you spoke with your customers? Not a “hello, how are you?” I’m talking having a thorough understanding of their likes, dislikes, what they are looking for in a product or service, where is their business going? You need to know as much as you can about every aspect of your customer’s business. You need to spend a large majority of your time with your customers.
Step 2: The health check
Putting reality on the table is always the right place to start. Once you have met with you customers and gathered all of the information that you require, you need to process it and understand it. By looking at your customers’ responses you will identify trends, both positive and negative, what is working and what isn’t, what can be improved and what can be left alone.
We often fall into the trap that the first customer that we speak to has a problem and we knee-jerk into a reaction that is not a long term solution. This is about getting better one step at a time.
By gathering and assessing the feedback you will pick up potential problem areas in your business. Be it people, product, process or pricing, you will truly understand what your customers think about your business.
Step 3: Rank what is good and what is bad based on the frequency of responses
You cannot change everything at once, particularly if you are a small business. Take your list of challenges and rank them based on frequency of feedback. If eight out of the ten customers complained about quality then rank that as number 1. Do the same for the good things that your customers said about you.
Step 4: Assign a high, medium and low priority to the list
For each element on the list write a high, medium or low priority next to it. A high could be that your after sales service is not being delivered in terms of your sales pitch, and a low could be your that the customer wants your logo on the invoice.
Step 5: Focus on High x High
Remedy the high frequency and high priority first. Fix the challenges one at a time, but fix them properly. At the same time replicate the high frequency compliments that have a high impact on your business.
Step 6: Align your business to what the market and your customers are saying
By going through this process you will start evolving how your business looks and how it adapts to what is happening in the market. You will move from operating in theory to operating at the front line. Speed and agility, relative to what is happening in the market place, is critical.
Step 7: The 50% Rule – Stay one step ahead of your competition
By keeping your finger on the pulse you will create a pro-active process that will identify future challenges and opportunities that you can adapt to or capitalise on. Try and spend at least 50% of your time in the market. This brings you to the coal face, showing your team that you are leading from the front, and showing your customers that they are your number one priority.