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Learning What Customers Want Is Vital



Question: How do I make my business more customer-oriented?


Answer:

As competition in the marketplace continues to intensify, many businesses are emphasizing customer service like never before. Many companies are surprised when they learn about their own customer service-related problems. They pride themselves on paying attention to customers when they are, in fact, totally out of touch.

Of course, most of us want to believe our organization is very customer friendly and is dedicated to delighting customers. We’d rather not admit that our company may sometimes shortchange customers or ignore common customer courtesies. If we’re honest, we can generally find a few areas that need improvement.

To become competitive, a company must recognize that it doesn’t sell products, but rather customer satisfaction. How can your business become more customer-oriented?

Ask yourself these questions:

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– Do I know my customers’ expectations for our company? Have I taken time recently to ask them if they’re satisfied?

– Do I regularly take time to observe and notice how service is being delivered? What action have I taken on something that is wrong?

– Do I know the reasons why some customers are dissatisfied with the service my company provides? And do I know how much it would cost to correct each of the major sources of dissatisfaction?

– Can I identify individual dissatisfied customers who have silently switched to competitors and how much it has cost the company in lost revenue?

– Am I more interested in a strong customer base than in immediate profit?

– Are our company’s policies for the convenience of customers or our employees?

– Do employees who have contact with customers also have the power to make decisions?

– Are the company’s problems addressed with an eye on how the solution may affect customers?

Here are a few suggestions for cultivating your company’s focus on customer service.

Know your customer.

Today’s successful companies are maintaining comprehensive databases on customer needs and on what the customer values. Just as important as information about the marketplace is information that will help you meet your customers’ needs.

Always try to think like your customer.

Walk a mile in their shoes. Look closely at your company through their eyes. Survey customers on their perceptions of your company’s service. Companies that enjoy remarkably high profiles in customer service are obsessed with communicating effectively with the customer and knowing what the customer wants.

Spy on yourself.

Anonymously contact your own business with a request for information. Also, check out your competition with the same request and compare results. Are they doing the job better than you?

Look for attitude, efficiency and response time. Honestly appraise your own company’s efforts at achieving customer satisfaction. Make it your goal to become an easy company to do business with.


Written by Sheryl Charleston, the president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Better Business Bureau.

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