When you have accurate, balanced and worthwhile information from your customers, you put yourself ahead of your competition in the marketing stakes. Here are 6 ways to get this information.
1. Ask Them. The simplest way to find out what people want from your service or product is to ask them. That's what the hairdresser does when he says, "How would you like your hair, sir?". The trouble is, most service-providers assume they know what people want. When hotel customers are asked what they want for their breakfast and then the waiting and catering staff are asked what they think the customer wants, the answers are invariably different. Always ask and act on the answers.
2. Be Your Own Customer. One of the most obvious but underused ways to find out what your customers experience when they use your service is to be a customer yourself. You can do this by walking the customer journey one step at a time and seeing things through your customer's eyes. You can even act as one of a special group of customers - such as a person in a wheelchair, or someone whose first language is not English - and see how you're treated.
3. Focus Groups. Focus groups are representatives of customers whose job is to provide you with information on their needs and preferences. When Selfridges Food Hall in London's West End used a focus group to review their customer needs, they discovered that they had three different types of customer: locals who wanted personal attention; after-work shoppers who wanted convenience; and tourists who wanted something special.
4. Questionnaires and Surveys. Getting customers to put their thoughts in writing on a questionnaire or survey is one of the most well-established feedback techniques. That's because, when well-conducted, it works. When Volkswagen designed the new Bug, they sent their existing customers a detailed survey saying, "We want you! Your ideas, preferences, and constructive contributions will be evaluated and fed into the development process. So tell us about your impressions and ideas for the new Beetle. We'll do our best!" The result? Air-conditioning as standard and optional lighters and ashtrays. Who would have guessed?
5. Usage Statistics. The most important current information on whether your customers are satisfied with your service or not is whether they continue to buy from you or use you. However, while information on sales may be an accurate indicator of how well you are doing at present, it is no guarantee that you are delivering the product or service that the customer really wants. It may be that you are at present the only supplier in the market, or that you are the cheapest or the most convenient.
6. Your Front-Line Staff. Your front-line staff are the most resourceful and reliable, as well as the least costly, of your customer feedback sources. Front-line staff should be encouraged to build strong relationships with customers so that they feel free to share how they feel about the service. It is then for front-line staff to feed back important information for improving customer care and for managers to make use of what they tell them. There is also a value in looking after front-line staff. The supermarket chain, Sainsbury's, discovered a direct connection between customer satisfaction levels and front-line staff satisfaction levels. Each year it carries out customer surveys and staff surveys. Those stores where customer satisfaction is high are invariably the same stores where staff satisfaction is high.
You may deliver the best service in the world. But if it is not what people want, you're wasting your time. Implement one, two, three or all of the above techniques, and your service and product will improve overnight.
(c) Eric Garner, ManageTrainLearn.com