I trust you can see my tongue poking through my cheek, but the truth is, most businesses give lip service to the idea of starting a conversation with their customers, but few actually do.
Let’s agree on a few points right up front:
- It’s cheaper to keep a customer than get a new one
- It’s cheaper to sell more to a current customer than make the first sale to a new customer
- There’s no better marketing than word of mouth – which usually comes from your current customers
Those truths would suggest that our current clients are pretty important to our business’ long-term success. Despite that fact, most businesses:
- Don’t invest enough of their marketing budget/efforts on their current customers
- Don’t routinely thank (other than the pre-printed thank you at the bottom of your invoice) their current clients
- Don’t listen enough to their current customers.
Why in the world do we, in essence, ignore our best bet at success?
In this post, I’m going to focus on the listening issue. No one knows what it’s like to buy products or services from us like the very people who buy our products and services. And yet, the vast majority of businesses never bother to ask for feedback. Or they ask for feedback in a way that makes it so off-putting or difficult to provide the feedback that the customer ops not to. In most cases, the first chance the customer has to provide real, honest feedback is when they walk away and give their money to your competitor.
I think there are a few reasons why organizations don’t seek customer feedback.
- Fear: “I just don’t want to know because then I’m going to have to deal with it.”
- Bad time management: “I know it’s important and I’ve been meaning to launch a survey but then things got crazy.”
- Ignorance: “I don’t know how to make it happen and I think it has to be some big, elaborate thing.”
If you’re not actively and regularly seeking your clients’ input and insights, it’s one of the biggest marketing mistakes you can make. The only mistake worse than not asking for their input is actually asking for it and then not doing anything to fix the issues you uncover. Now you’ve asked for their opinion and then told them how little you care by ignoring their concerns.
Let’s assume you have found the courage and the time to listen. Are you ready to start a conversation with your customer?How do you go about it? Depending on your size and budget, you can make it as simple or regimented as you need.
Start a conversation: Take your client to lunch and ask “how are we doing and what could we do better?” Walk up to a customer in your store and say “we just re-arranged the shelves, did we make it easier for you to find what you need?” It can be that simple.
Observe: Sometimes the best way to listen is to just watch. How do people move through your store or website? What do they pick up or mouse over? What do they walk right by? Which Facebook posts do they share?
Ask on a schedule: Once a quarter or once a year – reach out to your customers with a survey that asks open-ended questions like “what’s your favorite thing about our service?” Or “what do you wish we’d stop doing?” Then (and this is vital) – report back to them what you learned and what you’re going to do about it.
Do true market research: If you’re big enough and have the budget, do more than antidotal research. Hire a pro and crunch the numbers. Build a benchmark that you can measure against, time and time again.
Just dip your toe into listening if you’re not ready to jump in head-first. But don’t wait too long – or your customers will be swimming in your competitor’s pool!