One Aspect on the Road to Business Success
November 15, 2018
Business is not static and continues to change. In fact, it sometimes changes with lightning speed; therefore, businesses must be ready to accept this phenomenon. It is much better to embrace change rather than try to resist it. Often the question for a business is what to change and when. The answer does not necessarily come from the business owner, managers, or employees but comes from customers. Obviously, customers who are the end user of a business’ products or services will make the difference between survival and success of a particular business.
Listen to Customers
Since customers make or break a business, it stands to reason that businesses should then listen to their customers. They should understand but often forget who ultimately pays the bills and creates profit for the business. Businesses need customers and without customers there will still be payroll, lease payments, utilities, and other operating expenses until the business is no longer a viable entity. An important point then becomes who decides what products and services should be offered and what qualities, benefits, options, etc. the products and services should have. Should the owner decide or should customers decide?
Small business and SME owners, obviously, have complete control over their businesses. They hire who they want, decide on marketing strategies, and offer products and services for sale that they think their customers want. It’s a great feeling of independence and power for owners. There’s only one problem. If customers don’t see what they want…benefits, solutions to their problems, price, quality, service, or a host of other reasons why customers purchase, they simply go to the competition. This is fact not fiction.
So, how do business owners know what customers want and what they will purchase? An easy answer is just to ask customers. Talk to customers, seek their input, and make product and service changes accordingly. In a competitive environment, businesses must communicate with customers.
Communicate and Test
The communication process with customers does not start and stop with a single conversation. It consists of constant communication and testing.
(1) Communication Round One - The entire communication and testing process begins with communicating with customers to find out their thoughts and desires. What is that customers desire in the way of products and services sold by the business? What is that customers dislike about current offerings, what would they like to see changed, and what additional products and services would customers purchase if offered for sale?
The owner must now contemplate what the customers had to say about the business...both the good and the bad…but what great feedback! This information is priceless in finding out what customers like and dislike about the business, and their future desires. Owners can never give customers too much of what they want.
(2) Testing Round One - Communicating with customers is the first step in the communication process, but then a testing process must begin. After the initial feedback, ideas for change must be tested. Maybe, the business made changes that they perceived customers wanted, but the changes did not turn out to be exactly what customers wanted. Perhaps, customers thought they wanted certain changes but were not willing to purchase the products and services once the changes were made. Customers can be indecisive and inconsistent when telling owners what changes they would like to see.
(3) Communication Round Two - After the initial communications with customers, product and service changes, and testing, another round of communication should take place with customers to see if the new changes are accepted. Are sales increasing, decreasing, or remaining stagnant? Are loyal customers returning? Are new customers being acquired? Are customers still requesting changes or offering suggestions?
(4) Testing Round Two - The last phase of this entire communication process is to test again. Final changes must have the desired positive effect on customer purchases; otherwise, the changes serve no business purpose. At this stage, the business owner would hope that the communication process with customers proved to be beneficial. Of course, the possibility exists that another round of communication and testing might be in order.
Regardless of the amount of time that an owner spends communicating with customers and making product and service changes, the time is well spent. Businesses must cater to the wishes of customers. Businesses need customers!