Your Most Valuable Resource That's Just A Conversation Away
What is the easiest thing you can do right away to help improve your business?
Hint: It doesn't involve algorithms, SaaS platforms, bots, cookies, or "magic pill" solutions.
The answer is surprisingly simple: talk to your customers. Engage with them in honest and open, 2-way conversation. And better yet, engage with your best customers, your most valuable customers (MVCs).
We must focus most of our efforts on our MVCs - the relatively small portion of our customers that generate the vast majority of our sales and profits. And while your MVCs have an incredible financial impact on your company, their contribution can be even greater.
Savvy companies see their MVCs as a part of their business team. They engage with them regularly, receiving valuable insights to improve every aspect of their company. As such, MVCs can function as customer service advocates, business advisors, and innovation partners.
Human nature tells us that people yearn to be heard, recognized, and valued. This is true for your customers, as well. When they feel appreciated and connected to your company, incredible things happen. Feedback flows freely, loyalty and trust build, and word of mouth referrals increase. And a sense of connection and "ownership" builds between your customers and your company. These are outcomes that every company should work toward.
Engaging with your best customers is simple and easy, but relatively few businesses do it well - or consistently. Why? Maybe we can blame it on technology, which has lulled us into thinking we're closer to our customers than we are. Perhaps it's just a lack of time, focus, or awareness of the potential benefits to be gained. Either way, we believe we need to get back to the basics.
"The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing" - John Russell, President, Harley Davidson.
The following are several common customer engagement activities that can have a profound positive impact on a company:
Explore aspects of the customer experience
Test marketing messaging and campaign concepts
Gather customer insights regarding products, services, competitors, etc.
Identify product and service improvements to increase satisfaction
Collaborate and co-create new products and services
Below are tips to help you begin to engage with your MVCs. And please realize that even if you have to start small, it's essential to begin. Benefits can be significant even with modest customer engagement efforts.
Tips to get started:
Select an outreach method. This can be as simple as customer phone interviews, focus groups, or an online customer community. Two-way communication is the primary requirement.
Have a research plan with clear objectives. Know what information and feedback you seek to obtain. Structure topics and questions carefully to achieve your plan's goals.
Listen for the unexpected and be open-minded. As business owners, we are often overly committed to our ideas and strategies. We must remember that the customer decides what is good. We must listen and adjust accordingly.
Meticulously capture feedback. Take careful notes and record sessions (with permission) so that they can be viewed separately by multiple team members. Multiple perspectives lead to better ideas and more effective solutions.
Be consistent. A disciplined, periodic approach provides a steady flow of feedback and the opportunity to follow up on important issues and introduce timely topics.
Provide a clear way for customers to contact the company. Customers should have an easy way to get in touch with company management as excellent ideas and observations often arise days and weeks after a discussion.
The power of customer engagement is too significant to ignore.
Your most valuable customers are an incredible resource that can provide you with invaluable input and insights to help you adjust, adapt, innovate, and grow. Begin to engage with them regularly and watch your company become more confident, decisive, and de-stressed.