Welcome to a series of articles all about business growth. Over the last year or so we have all been focused on Covid-19 and the challenges to be faced over the years ahead. It has not been a particularly happy time for many. While some businesses have had to close or reduce staff, many have kept going and there are new ones starting most weeks.
This series is all about the future and the optimism that comes with growth. Let us remember that starting and growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive and determination of the people who do it as it is about the products or services they sell.
Last week I looked at the need to build and lead winning teams – today the focus is on customers. All business have customers who are a crucial part of any business team – no customer, no money, no job, no business. So, customers ARE your business. As you grow your business you may need to find new customers or new markets and you might need to learn new ways of accessing these markets, especially with a focus on modern technologies.
Remember, all of your customers are partners in your mission to run a good profitable business. Take the time to get to know them. Talk to them and find out what other needs they have that you could satisfy. Get feedback from them. Even complaints are worth having as they give you the chance to put something right. Find ways to reward customers who make the effort to give you feedback or recommend you to others or simply always come to you!
Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most effective sales team. Maya Angelou said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.
There are always three kinds of customer – dissatisfied, satisfied and delighted. The first kind are very easy to create – just over promise and under deliver! Sadly, a common strategy in the Pacific. Satisfied customers where what you deliver is equal to what you promise are what most people are aiming for. However, if you want to be ahead of the pack and really grow your business then you need to create delighted customers where what you deliver is always greater than what you promise!
It is delighted customers who will share their delight with others – they will become your greatest fans. They will continue to do business with you and encourage others to do the same. Do not forget that dissatisfied customers will also tell others – only they will be telling a negative story!
Delivering great service, all the time, to all customers is not an optional extra – it is the way you should do business. If you are busy when a customer walks in, then immediately stop what you are doing and greet them, talk to them and always thank them for coming.
Not all customers are polite or even pleasant but they are still customers.
Finally, all businesses have two groups of customers – your number one customers are your staff and team that you use to operate your business. This might include your suppliers, contractors and others who provide a service on your behalf. If they are not feeling good, valued, well treated or happy at work then why expect them to behave differently towards your number two customers – the people who pay your bills and their wages.
Great service begins at home – delighted staff will help create delighted customers.
You may need to spend time exploring new sources of customer, especially in today’s economic environment – the best place to start is with your existing customers. Ask them what they suggest, create a reward scheme if they introduce new people to you, feature their businesses on your social media platforms – create a win win situation for all.
It often takes months to find a customer, and just seconds to lose one.
I look forward to hearing your experiences about customers and customer service.
Next week I focus on the products and services you sell. Business growth will require you to look carefully at what you sell, why you sell them and who you sell them to and make changes to what you do and how much you charge for your services.
As always, please contact me if you have an interesting story to tell and are happy for it to be told.
Breadfruit Consulting (www.breadfruitconsulting.com) is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specialises in a range of business development activities including ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis, designing and starting new, sustainable businesses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com