You need to invest resources in training your team on the importance of customers in the business. These are the things that most employees take for granted. I get worried when I walk into some businesses and you walk to an angry security guard or a receptionist who is showing some attitude. Well, I can actually move on to the next service provider, and render a negative review to my friends and network.
Do you know there are certain companies that you will never give your business regardless of how much advertising they may put in. If you do not work on your customer focus you can plough in resources into marketing and still not be able to get any results.
Results do not lie. Always look at the results that you are getting versus the energy you are putting in. This instalment touches on the second law of business growth which is customer focus. If you missed the earlier parts, you can read them on the Business Weekly website (www.businessweekly.co.zw).
What is a customer?
Let us start with the basics; what is a customer? There are several definitions, but my favourite one is that a customer is everyone that an organisation serves. This is an all-encompassing definition as it covers everyone who is part of the running of the business.
The servicing of a customer is a two-way process. Every customer wants something from the business (a product or service) and every business wants something from that customer in return (money). This scenario gives rise to further classification of the word ‘‘customer’’ into two categories: internal and external customers.
External Customers: These are people or entities that exchange money for a product or service, and
Internal Customers: the individuals that are employed by, that use, or who rely on the work of others within an organization and expect money and respect in return (including employees, suppliers, contractors, shareholders, the community where the business is located, and other stakeholders).
External customers are important because the money they exchange for goods and services pays for everything in the business (bills, rent, salaries, insurance, taxes, pensions, medical insurance, equipment, and so on). Without the money coming through you cannot sustain the business let alone grow it. These are the people who justify your existence.
There is a tendency many a times for business to actually ignore the internal customers. This constituency plays a key role in facilitating your success in meeting the needs of the external customers. Serve your employees in the way that you want them to serve your best customers.
Customers (both internal and external) are central to every business that intends to grow. Interestingly, it does not take magic to win the customers over. The needs of the customers are often predictable, they desire the human element from the business — acknowledgement, respect, a smile, a listening ear, politeness, and honesty. In fact if you master this, your customers can actively play a role in helping you develop solutions, services or products that they want to buy.
They will literally help you build and grow your organisation. Organisations like Unilever, Ikea, and Lego now actively involve customers in problem-solving and new product development through co-creation platforms and initiatives. As organizational consultant Simon Sinek once said, “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”
Customer centric approach
Customer focus means ensuring customer success. Help your customers achieve their goals. This is what gives them happiness from using your products or services. You need to identify what makes your customers happy. Many companies fail to achieve business goals and objectives because of lack of customer focus.
As a business never ignore the very people who contribute towards business growth and success, and justify your existence in an industry. This makes the conversation on customer focus even more important. The question that inevitably arises is how do you improve customer focus?
There are seven things that can help you develop customer centric approach to business; and we going to look at this in detail below, and continue in the next instalment.
#1. Focus on customer wants and expectations
This is the reality of business, you exist to meet a particular need or expectation. Be fixated and obsessed on this. In fact, your focus is how you can continuously improve the expectation.
This also means you actually need to listen to your customers. You also need to think from the perspective of the customer. This means literally putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, and asking pertinent questions such as;
What are their needs?
What’s driving their decision-making?’
What are their goals?
What are they feeling?
Investing in knowing and listening to your customers will radically change the direction of business through enhanced customer experience. One of the things customers value is convenience. People want to do shopping at their own convenience without necessarily having to drive to a particular shop, and spending lots of time in a que.
People now want to watch television at their own terms, rather than being told that the next episode is going to be screened tomorrow at a particular time. Customers want to determine whether they want to watch all of it at once, or even download it and watch it offline.
These are just some examples but if you observe the needs specified there, you will appreciate that a solution has to be developed with this bias in mind. A business that meets a need effectively, and excellently is likely to grow than a business that does not take time to listen to its customers.
How can you serve your customers better, or how can you improve their lives or even shopping experience? Wear their shoes, and gain new perspective on aspects of your business you may not necessarily attend to more often. Customers are not necessarily interested in the technical jargon, they are interested in answers, how does your product or service help me achieve my goals.
There is no magic about business growth, it is understanding the reason why you started it, and most importantly having in mind the people that you intend to help with the solutions that you are providing.
These are your customers. Focus on what the customer needs and wants. This is different from focusing on what you want as a business. This is how simple, and complex it is. Businesses invest millions of dollars in strategy and trainings and often miss this very simple point that you need to develop products that the customer wants to buy, and not what you want to sell.
Coca Cola formula change!
To hear some tell it, April 23, 1985, was a day that will live in marketing infamy.
On that day, The Coca-Cola Company took arguably the biggest risk in consumer goods history, announcing that it was changing the formula for the world’s most popular soft drink, and spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen.
The Coca-Cola Company introduced reformulated Coca-Cola, often referred to as ‘‘new Coke,’’ marking the first formula change in 99 years. This move was to cause massive firestorm of consumer protest that ensued; instead. The Coca-Cola Company had intended to re-energise its Coca-Cola brand and the cola category in its largest market, the United States.
The protests were quelled with the return of the original formula, now called Coca-Cola classic, a few months later. The return of original formula Coca-Cola on July 11, 1985, put the cap on 79 days that revolutionised the soft-drink industry, transformed
The Coca-Cola Company and stands today as testimony to the power of taking intelligent risks, even when they don’t quite work as intended. In Zimbabwe, there was a similar outcry when Schweppes decided to introduce its range of Mazoe with less sugar. They had to resort to “original”, and also sold the less sugar option alongside it.
Hear the customer
The question is how do you do that? Create opportunities to spend time with customers or handle service calls to learn from customers first-hand. This should be encouraged for non-customer-facing staff across the business — from the CEO down.
Collect as much data as possible through the various digital platforms in order for you to gain valuable insight into the customers’ needs. Invite customer feedback as well, and invite their honest opinion about your service or product and invite customers to provide feedback. Use surveys to get to hear what the customers are saying about your business.
Arthur Marara is a corporate law attorney, keynote speaker, corporate and personal branding speaker commanding the stage with his delightful humour, raw energy, and wealth of life experiences. He is a financial wellness expert and is passionate about addressing the issues of wellness, strategy and personal and professional development. Arthur is the author of “Toys for Adults” a thought provoking book on entrepreneurship, and “No one is Coming” a book that seeks to equip leaders to take charge. Send your feedback to [email protected] or Visit his website www.arthurmarara.com or contact him on WhatsApp: wa.me//263780055152 or call +263772467255.