Believe it or not, customers want to be customers and not employees – yet too many entrepreneurs run to make adjustments and even complete do-overs at the first sound of a customer suggestion.
Don’t – and here’s why.
While the Holy Grail of any business is customer loyalty, the way to get there is actually not through your customers, but through your own innovation and passion.
Enterprises that soar in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace monitor their customer sat numbers religiously. Did you know that hospital reimbursement rates today include a patient’s customer sat figure in determining the payment?
Customer satisfaction is key to economic survival because satisfied customers stay and buy more. According to the Gartner Group, 65 percent of a company’s business comes from its existing customers. And it costs 5 to 10 times as much, depending on industry, to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied, the consulting group reported. The existential question is: How do you make customers happy? To be honest, that answer is as individual as fingerprints.
Below are my 3 rules to keeping customers happy and coming back – without letting them run the show.
- Never let your customers define or refine your product.
This is my ironclad rule because it will destroy both the product and the process behind it. Doing so makes the customer, in effect, a staff member. Letting your customers define your product is a big problem in business. Eager salespeople, who are defined by their sales quotas, are all-too-eager to sign you up. The economic pressure drives your sales force to rework your product to suit the prospect’s individual needs, in order to build a relationship and close the sale. This practice becomes a real danger as a company grows. If you let this destructive practice worm its way into your business, your simple, singular product becomes a mish-mash. An elegantly-designed product morphs into a poorly engineered one. This is a train wreck, because by trying to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.
- Do not let salespeople alter your carefully engineered product just to make the sale. Salespeople typically have little or no expertise in product development – yet they succeed when they close the deal. So while they are eager to please the customer by asking you to tweak a few things…don’t. Redesigning your products isn’t the answer. Creating a commission structure that lends itself to repeat sales is.
- Do listen to your customers to alter and adapt to a changing marketplace. But let only your engineers decide how to change your product. I’m not saying you should turn a deaf ear to your customers or salespeople – if enough of them start making the same suggestions, you have the market research necessary to improve your product. Always be mindful of what your customers need. Businesses need to be agile and able to adapt. Just don’t let your customers become your engineering partners. You are a provider of top-notch products and/or services. Carefully select any consultants you need to help you do that. Just don’t let them be your customers.
Remember that your success is based on being an innovative entrepreneur, and while you will need to evolve and grow, don’t give up your vision. No one knows the challenges your product solves better than you. Protect the integrity of your product and defend your carefully-designed systems. That is your marketplace strength.