Tony Zambito writes about his fascination with the House of Mirrors at an amusement park, and how companies today look at customers through the corporate needs of their businesses, and how the view of their customers can easily become distorted. It’s easy to start looking at your business needs through the eyes of your business,and that's not necessarily wrong(a strong vision and purpose will help keep you focused and remain diligent to your business’ mission and values). However, ignoring the needs of your customers won’t help your business make those sales, and that’s why looking at your business through the eyes of your customers is just as important. So how do you see through your customers eyes?
- Be where they are. Just as I wanted to see the patient’s experience, you need to find a way to be where they are. It can be a physical location or it can be on the internet. If you have people walking into your store, get someone with fresh eyes to walk through your front doors, ask for help, search for something, buy something, return an item, etc. and then report their experience. If you have an audience online, be where they are. This is especially true with your website. Make sure that you visit each page, use the contact us forms, walk through the purchasing process online, etc. If you have a live messaging system, have you used it first? Outside of your website are you visible on Social Media? Your business will need a platform where your customers can voice their concerns, sing your praises, and where you can inform them about new things your business is doing, and capture their attention not just so they will buy from you, but so that they will feel connected to you and even share your business with others.
- Ask. Not many people are looking to be asked to fill out a survey, but not many people are bothered by 20% off their next purchase for sharing their experience with you (or some other benefit). This can be a comment card, an online survey (as simple as SurveyMonkey), and/or a focus group. Note: When you make changes based on customers suggestions, this only helps to build rapport with your community and it helps others feel free to share their own opinions.
- Respond to inquiries. Always address questions publicly so everyone can see them and be informed, or at the very least are easily shared by your other customers for your customers who are looking for this information. If these questions are the kind that keeps persisting, creating a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website is a great first step to lowering down the number of this kind of inquiries. However, even then, you should respond to them with link to your FAQ page, and let your customers know to contact you if there’s something they don’t understand or need further assistance.
- Be accessible. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip, and it simply means you need to be able to respond to your customers’ inquiries in a timely manner (more than 24 hours in a work week is an eternity on social media). Now, you may not be present on all social media pages, nor should you, but if you see your customers are using Twitter a lot and are either trying to talk to you there, or are talking about you there, you should open a Twitter account and use it for customer service. But what if most of your customers are on Facebook, and they are contacting you through Facebook? Well, compare the number of comments and complaints coming in from other platforms and decide where your presence is needed most, and where can you afford to be the most (or where you can’t afford not to be).
- Be versatile. This simply means you shouldn’t focus on your product alone, but that you should know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, and be knowledgeable about them as well as anything else that may be tied to your product and/or industry. If you aren’t offering some product or service related to your business and/or industry, you should know where you can send your customers instead. This will help build trust and loyalty because you’re trusting your customers to come back to you after you send them somewhere else, and you’re going out of your way to stay informed so you can help them.
- Don’t lose the personal touch. Most customers want to talk to a real person. Even when they’re using online tools to contact you, they want to know that the person on the other end understands them, can identify and empathize with them, and solve their problem quickly and efficiently. Don’t rely solely on online tools for communication. Train your staff on how to handle concerns, ideas, and compliments whether they be in-person or on the telephone. Your employees can be your greatest marketing tools.