It's Not Too Late to Make 2013 the Year of the CustomerWritten by Brad Smith
This year is more than halfway through. You had every intention of making 2013 "the year of the customer" for your business, but you just haven't found the time or resources to make the changes you planned. Well, it's not too late to put more focus on the customer experience.
These three lessons can be easily applied to any business—small or large, in services or manufacturing, or a brick-and-mortar store or ecommerce outlet.
1. Adapt to better serve
Put yourself in your customers' shoes. Are there ways you can make your company easier to work with? Perhaps you can offer your products or services under a subscription model to give customers the benefits of short-term commitments and less (or no) upfront costs. Or, maybe you can offer customers more flexible payment or billing options that are more convenient.
If you run an ecommerce business, consider extending your customer service hours by one hour in the morning and one in the evening to better accommodate shoppers in different time zones. If you're a distributor, consider a change to your customer communication regarding sales orders, perhaps adding text message options.
Also, map the customer journey—from the marketing, awareness, and evaluation phase; to the buy, purchase, and set-up phase; to the use, consume, value realization phase; and, finally, to the repurchase, renewal, and recommend phase. Look for those common touch points that every customer must go through and ask yourself if those behind-the-scenes, often-forgotten touch points reflect your company's brand and the motto of "easy to do business with."
Then consider the frequency that all customers must transit these touch points when you consider if your customer lifecycle journeys are able to deliver a delightful experience, versus a brilliant basic or, worse, a failed journey.
2. Give more
The first things many shoppers do before visiting a new merchant are check online reviews and look for discounts. You can capitalize on this trend by offering coupons on your website or social media platforms. Consider developing a loyalty program that gives your most frequent customers discounts and other perks.
Also, think about other resources you could provide your customers. If you own a bakery, might you offer free cake decorating classes, or even branch out a bit by offering complimentary jam preserving classes? If you manage a manufacturing plant, could you offer discounted shipping during the off-season?
3. Prove feedback matters
You and your employees probably collect customer opinions and pieces of advice every day. But what do you do with them? Take "listening" a step further by backing it up with some action. Consider the implementation of one customer suggestion each month. Your customers will take notice and, hopefully, value your business more than the competition.
Treating your customers with respect and thoughtfulness is one New Year's resolution you should (and can still) keep.
Brad Smith has nearly 20 years of leadership experience in the web consumer, enterprise software, and communication service provider industries, spanning sales and marketing, product management and development, service architecture, and service/support delivery roles. As executive vice president, customer experience, for Sage North America, he is responsible for developing all aspects of the Sage commitment to the customer experience, from product design and customer support, to the invoice experience and all touch points in between. Smith was most recently vice president of customer experience for Yahoo! He also previously held senior leadership roles with Symantec, Openwave, and Verisign.
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