Customers are the lifeblood of your organization. Delighting them is your surest path to sustainable success. When you make the customer come alive inside your organization you leverage employees natural empathy, focus employees on what customers value and provide them with a shared purpose. This renewed understanding and engagement may unlock the answers to some of your most vexing problems and give you insights into profitable growth opportunities.
7 Steps to Make the Customer Come Alive Inside Your Organization
- create a dedicated space to demonstrate customer thinking – a wall works.
- place photos of typical customers – could be other stakeholders depending on your business and focus, e.g. investors, prospects, employees, partners, patients, members, guests, visitors, volunteers, voters, citizens, students, clients, etc.
- ask and answer questions –
- how did they become aware of us?
- what are their communications habits?
- why did they buy from us?
- what are their needs and are they changing?
- enroll others in an ongoing dialogue around customers – encourage colleagues to place sticky notes or write on the wall
- continue to gain new insights and generate new questions
- as you have customer interactions share your learning at the wall
- prioritize and take action on insights – you can’t do it all so focus on the projects and programs that will have the most impact and look for quick wins.
Other Projects that can help you improve your Customer Thinking and eliminate blind spots include: net promoter score (NPS) & loyalty strategy; customer evidence (case studies, testimonials, references); customer observation, behavior, and needs analysis; segmentation and ecosystem mapping; customer storybook and voice of the customer; win/loss/stall analysis; empathy lab; and customer profitability & retention analysis.
Everything has changed, but you’re still executing on the old strategy? Chances are you’ve been too busy to re-examine your strategy, let alone change course. Like most organizations you’ve completed your annual planning and you’re on cruise control –Set it and Forget. Of course, you’ll revisit the strategy in next year’s annual planning session. But what happens when you’re cruising down the road and a competitor, customer, partner, or legislation throws the proverbial monkey wrench in your spokes. Right – your organization will react to it when you encounter that problem. If that is what you believe, then you’ve fallen into the trap. That’s the thing, you can only react to those things you are aware of. Most things that erode your business are more subtle than the abrupt, spoke shearing monkey wrench. Think of a hidden killer like pancreatic cancer. You don’t have years of leading indicators. When it is too late, it is sadly, too late.
One of my mentors once told me “A lot can happen in a little while.” If you caught the Oscars last night, in particular the memorandum part, recall the talent that expired in the past year. Writers, Producers, Actresses, Actors, all removed from the talent pool that brought us great entertainment. The business world is no different. People, businesses, technology, relationships – it’s all changing faster than your annual planning cycle.
So, take a trip around your organization. Are your people keeping up in real time or are they unquestioningly executing on yesterday’s strategy? How ready is your organization to adapt to a shifting strategy? What are you doing to notice trends and changes in the business landscape and customer and partner ecosystems? These are key areas that present both opportunities and threats. Who is watching your organization’s back? Who is spotting dangerous currents or bountiful waters? Is anybody at the table bringing an outside perspective? Do you have sensors in the ground to take notice? Here is a visual tool and 5 steps that will keep your business apprised to the changing world outside your organization.
5 steps to business success
- Study, really study, the Trends & Technology Timeline 2010+
- Shift your perspective
- Receive feedback from Sensors in the Ground
- Change the dialogue in your organization
- Expand your innovation neighborhood to include outsiders
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Timely and relevant communications is essential for businesses to reach their target audience. Anything less is noise that will largely go unnoticed or worse irritate the intended audience. Sadly, many organizations fall into the trap of poorly segmenting communications. Sales and even some marketing personnel fail to differentiate between suspects, prospects, and customers. When this happens, loyal customers are often overlooked. Think how a loyal customer feels about your brand when prospects receive better offers than they do. This results in customer churn, diminished sales, and poor loyalty.
To solve this problem companies should segment customer communications into 3 stages.
- The first stage is Exposure. Here you expose suspects to your products and services and turn them into a prospect.
- Next is the Adoption stage. Getting your prospect through the sales process and consuming your product or service is the goal.
- The last stage is Retention. This last one is most often overlooked as sales driven personnel and processes are “on to the next” big sale or initiative.
Bain and Company research established that it is 10x more costly to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. So naturally, you wish to retain customers and turn them into advocates.
Benefit of creating advocates include:
- pay more, especially for premium treatment
- buy more and often without ongoing sales efforts
- provide useful input on products and services
- insulate you from the effectiveness of competitor’s price promotions
- reduce the cost of your exposure funnel related marketing activities
Properly enabled, advocates also influence like minded individuals and expose them to your brand. Because of this, it is important to continue to build the relationship. This is especially relevant in an era where buyers turn to social networks and online information sources for opinions and counsel before completing a purchase decision.
Here is how to improve customer communications
- Conduct a communications audit and establish your baseline
- Ensure everyone is clear on the definition of customer terms i.e. suspect, prospect, customer, and client
- Actively segment communications based on the 3 stages of relationship
- Watch response rates and loyalty improve