Checking Out Who Your Customers Are
A fresh look at customers starts with the ones you enjoy seeing – those who regularly purchase goods or services from you. But sometimes, knowing what something is not can be just as important as knowing what it is. You can find out as much about your own business and best customers by observing the other kinds of customers out there – the customers who are difficult, the customers who are gone and the customers whom you never had.
The good customer
Good customers are the ones who bring a smile to your face, the ones you like serving, the ones who appreciate you, the ones who keep you in business. They’re the customers you want to keep coming back time and again. To keep all those good customers happy, however, you may need to know more than the fact that Tom likes Chinese food, Mary has a weakness for chocolates and Harry loves red ties.
Why? Isn’t simply knowing individual customers on some personal basis enough? Well, not quite. What happens if you’ve hundreds or even thousands of small customers, such as if you run a shop, or if your staff turnover is high as in most parts of the catering industry?
In such cases, you’ve no substitute for a good database system for tracking your relationship with clients and then making appropriate product or service offers. For example, supermarkets now analyses customer purchases and make targeted special offers based on their understanding of the customer profile. This all helps to make customers feel special and loved.
Discovering Why Your Customers Buy
Perhaps the most difficult – and useful – question that you can answer about your customers is why they buy what they buy. What actually compels them to seek out your products or services in the marketplace? What’s important to them? What are they really looking for?
Discovering why your customers won’t buy again is as valuable as knowing why they buy in the first place. One terrifying statistic is that 98 per cent of complaints never happen. People just don’t get round to making the complaint, or worse still, they can find no one to complain to. You would have to be a hermit never to have experienced something to complain about, but just try finding someone to complain to at 8 p.m. on a Sunday at Paddington Station and you get a fair impression of how the Gobi Desert feels.
You can never be confident that just because you’re not hearing complaints your customers and clients aren’t dissatisfied and about to defect. Nor does silence mean that they won’t run around bad mouthing you and your business to other people. You do well to remember that on average people share their complaint with a score of others, who in turn are equally eager to share the tidings with others. The viral effect of email has the potential to make any particularly juicy story run around the world in days if not hours.
Finding Out How Your Customers Make Choices
How do customers make choices in the marketplace? The most important thing to remember is that customers decide to buy things based on their own view of the world – their own perceptions of reality. Few customers buy without thinking. Instead, they bring their perceptions of the world into a decision-making process that (ideally) leads them to purchase your product or service instead of other options.
Suppose that you’re in a startup firm with a top-notch consumer-software title. You’re afraid, however, that customers are reluctant to give the program a try, for fear that the software may be difficult to fathom or incompatible with their computers. (Keep in mind that people act on their perceptions of reality rather than on the reality itself!) To move potential customers past the evaluation and into the trial step of the adoption process, you may want to consider setting up a free new-user hotline and offering a money-back, no-questions-asked guarantee.