Assessing your company through your customer’s experience
Take on the perspective of the customer to evaluate your business.
When assessing your business, it's often helpful to take a step back and ask, "Why am I in business?" With 25 years of experience in the customer experience space, Annette Franz, Vice President of Client Experience at Compellon, says the answer should be simple: your customers.
Franz outlines six ways you can keep your customers at the core of your business and how they can help you assess your service or products.
1. Seek objective information
It can be easy for small business owners to remain unaware of their business's faults. Bringing in customers — or outsiders via mystery shopping — to help assess your company can provide insights that may otherwise go unnoticed. Mystery shoppers provide an unbiased look at your business, as typically, they are evaluating your business for the first time.
2. Listen to your customer
Surveys may help you understand, in detail, how your customers feel about your existing business practices, services, or products and how you can improve/ what else do they need. "When you administer a survey, ask your customers what other products and services they use, and ask them to rate their satisfaction with your competitors," says Franz. "I like to ask customers to share the best experience they've ever had to get a better understanding of what the competition is doing really well." Franz even recommends asking about businesses outside your industry to get a sense of what your customers consider a quality customer service experience.
Through observations, customer surveys, and interactions with your customers, you should try to understand your customers' perspectives. By taking up their needs and wants as your cause, your business and positive customer experiences will increase. "If you don't listen to your customer or understand the problems they're trying to solve, then you're not building products or selling services that really help the customer," says Franz.
3. Research the competition
There are many ways you can get a sense of your competitors. Franz recommends competitive research for an invaluable perspective on the products and services you offer. Shop other businesses on your own to observe them in action. "This hands-on approach provides timely, real-life experience with a competing brand," she says. If you're crunched for time, you can hire a consultant or mystery shopper to understand your competitor's in-store experience without stepping away from your business.
You can also scope out your competition from a distance. "If you have a local business, you can go to sites like Yelp and [Angie's List] to read reviews of competitors' businesses. See how well your competitors are doing, where they're falling down, and pick out the advantages and disadvantages from that," says Franz. If you run your business online, consider reading reviews on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
4. Innovate — don't imitate
While it's important for companies to research the competitive landscape, you may want to avoid staying too focused on your competition. "Customers go to different companies for different reasons and a lot of times they go to different companies for the same reasons," says Franz. "I believe that each company brings its own unique value to the table. Focus on what your mission is, what your brand promises, and why you're in business." And don't wait until something is wrong to start innovating your business. Look at what you can do now to build on your understanding of your business and your competitors.
5. Retain first; acquire later
Keep your existing customers happy today to allow new customers to be happy tomorrow. "Acquiring a customer is much harder to do and much more expensive than focusing on retention," says Franz. "Focus on the customers you have today — listen to them, understand them, and improve their experiences." Simply offering consistent and reliable or improved services can turn them into advocates for your brand through word-of-mouth.
For more tips on making your brand stand out, consider these ways to keep track of the competition.