Are we really understanding our customers or ignoring the facts?

In my 27+ years in business, and heavily involved in the entrepreneurial community, I have observed the success of many businesses, and the fast failure of others. All these companies had superior products or service – so why did some fail?

This story epitomies the dilemma business people are facing in the world of big data. Sure, they have information on customers. This information is piling up in all sorts of places. For the most part, business owners are desperately making sure they do not miss any opportunity to record every touch point customers have with the company. But then what?

This is the entrepreneurial opportunity of the next five years. Turn your understanding of your customers into opportunities for real, meaningful connections with them. Listen to what they are really saying, not just their responses to surveys, but what they tell you when they do business with your company.

Your most precious asset, no matter what business you have, is your existing customers. You expended considerable effort to entice these companies to do business with you. So why not intensely focus on their behaviour as they do business with you? Rather than comb through the endless data about them, talk to them, humanise your approach.

Too many companies squander the treasure that is real customer feedback. The solution is systematically measuring the customer’s human voice and integrating it into a culture of continuous feedback.

Customer-experience metrics have proliferated over the past decade, and chances are that your business relies heavily on one or more of them. But many companies struggle with metrics. For some, the problem is a disconnect between the metric and business performance; for others, it’s a loss of confidence among front-line workers when the metrics do not seem to explain big swings in customer satisfaction. Further, in some companies, there is confusion about whether transactional or relational measures matter more, and, in others, a simple lack of results from too much focus on one top-line metric.

Alex Singla on Customer Experience – ‘Do the math’

McKinsey director Alex Singla illustrates how a typical institution has multiple chances to build customer satisfaction. Learn more: http://www.mckinsey.com

Loyal customers may represent no more than 20 percent of your customer base, but make up more that 50 percent of your sales. You need to be communicating with these customers on a regular basis. These people are the ones who can and should influence your marketing decisions. Nothing will make a loyal customer feel better than soliciting their input and showing them how much you value it. Still you need to consider the fact, that not all regular customers are loyal to your company. You need to be able to classify your customers and identify the loyal ones correctly if you plan to make marketing decisions based on their interests.

Taken together, these complications leave many companies tone-deaf to the voice of the customer and represent a formidable barrier to building the foundation of a successful customer-centric strategy. Happily, our experience shows that it matters less which top-line metric a business relies on; almost any one will do. Rather, what matters is how the business inserts the metric into a systematic capability to collect, analyse, and act on feedback in an effective and complete measurement system of the customer journey. Building that system can take time, but gains to a customer-centric culture and the bottom line can accrue quickly.

Customers have choices when buying a product. They seek options from trusted friends and family. Experienced shoppers explore what others are saying on social media and online customer reviews. Your companies product may be just one of many options. We can benefit from listening to our customers’ opinions about their level of satisfaction with competing products. Take the time to thoroughly explore what others are saying about your competition. What we hear might provide us with information critical to helping us deliver better solutions.

In summary, all great and successful company leaders have a clear understanding of their customers. It is the basis of why a company exists. It’s the foundation of an organisation’s vision and strategy. You have an exceptional product but if you fail to consider how it fits the needs of your buyer, you don’t have a business. We need to learn what our current and future customers need and make sure we deliver exactly what they want for a price they will pay. Customers, if we listen to them, will tell us all we need to know to develop the right products and services to grow a viable business. Great businesses, large and small, follow this model today. They talk to customers constantly, always taking note of any changes in thought or behaviour.

A great quote by George Bernard Shaw:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

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