KNOW YOUR CUS­TOMER

African Times - - Business - Luther-Les­lie Wil­liamson is an au­thor and ex­ec­u­tive of LuAV Con­sult­ing Serv LUTHER-LES­LIE WIL­LIAMSON

DO you know your prod­uct more than your cus­tomer does? The sales po­ten­tial of your prod­uct and the im­pact it car­ries needs to be strength­ened by your de­sire, pas­sion and com­mit­ment to both your brand and the cus­tomer. How does your be­lief in your prod­uct rate against your cus­tomers be­lief? How many cus­tomers can do with­out your prod­uct and what is the de­gree of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween your prod­uct and that of your com­pe­ti­tion? Can your cus­tomer do with­out you and the prod­ucts? Hav­ing a clear pic­ture and un­der­stand­ing of cus­tomer needs and what de­lights them is at the epi­cen­ter of ev­ery suc­cess­ful busi­ness, whether you sell to var­i­ous chan­nels and forms both di­rectly and in­di­rectly to in­di­vid­u­als or other busi­nesses.

Know­ing your cus­tomer is a top of mind cliché in mar­ket­ing. The key prin­ci­ple of any busi­ness is pi­o­neered by know­ing its cus­tomers. That def­i­ni­tion of know­ing means ab­so­lutely and en­tirely know­ing the cus­tomer. In all in­tense and pur­pose your com­pany starts by solv­ing a prob­lem for a group of peo­ple. The so­lu­tion may be a prod­uct or a ser­vice. Most busi­ness have started out by ful­fill­ing un­met needs. The need came first, then the mo­ment of re­al­i­sa­tion or mo­ment of magic that trans­forms the need into a ser­vice or a prod­uct and ul­ti­mately a sale. The defin­ing mo­ments the mo­ment of “TRUTH”The mo­ment of bril­liant in­sight in to a new arena of op­por­tu­nity. Noth­ing can quell the thirst for con­clu­sion of a sale at the right time, right mo­ment, the self-be­lief, per­sonal re­as­sur­ance, af­fir­ma­tion of the path to un­charted wa­ters for any sales per­son.

My view is that if you stud­ied your cus­tomer dur­ing great times in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the tough road that might be­fall your or the cus­tomers com­pany dur­ing the stormy sea­son the re­la­tion­ship will con­tinue to pre­vail. Dur­ing dif­fi­cult times you need to see your cus­tomer through the eye of a nee­dle. Keep­ing your cus­tomers con­stantly on the radar. So, stick­ing with them by con­sciously know­ing them, you’ll get them loyal when times are both great and tough. The client needs to see you as a so­lu­tion to their chal­lenges they might be fac­ing in what­ever form, this is the essence of sales re­ten­tion.

Back to Ba­sics

Get­ting back to ba­sics by con­stantly try­ing to un­der­stand your cus­tomer be­yond the pur­chase trans­ac­tion and fully un­der­stand­ing how they are us­ing your prod­ucts, how they ex­pe­ri­ence it, the cus­tomers value chain and it is crit­i­cal to un­der­stand how your prod­uct in­flu­ences and con­sciously com­pli­ments the cus­tomers value chain On your quest to im­prove your prod­uct or ser­vice, or to find new prod­ucts to de­velop, it is crit­i­cal to look no fur­ther than your cur­rent cus­tomers. Talk to them face to face. Es­tab­lish the ef­fec­tive­ness of your prod­uct through their eyes and feed­back chan­nels. It is crit­i­cal and es­sen­tial to ob­tain fac­tual and hon­est feed­back on your ser­vice or prod­uct timeously de­spite pe­ri­odic claims of how good it is. You may at first not want to hear that your prod­uct is any­thing less than per­fect, but is it not bet­ter to hear about it first be­fore your com­peti­tor?

Fo­cus on the Cus­tomer

But some­thing hap­pens as com­pa­nies grow and pros­per. Grad­u­ally busi­nesses shift from re­ally know­ing their cus­tomers by be­ing close to them to as­sume they know what their cus­tomers need. They be­come ab­sorbed with in­ter­nal pro­cesses to re­duce op­er­a­tional costs and in­crease profit mar­gins.

As their fo­cus turns in­ward, they be­gin to lose their out­ward fo­cus on the cus­tomer. They as­sume that they still know their cus­tomers. This is an as­sump­tion that can even­tu­ally lead to fail­ure. The fact is things change, cus­tomers’ needs change, their ex­pec­ta­tions change, and the com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment changes.

Cus­tomers like to be­lieve that you care by lis­ten­ing to what they have to say. And if you lis­ten they will tell you how to sell them more prod­ucts. Cus­tomers want you to suc­ceed. So, make a point of lis­ten­ing to your cus­tomers. Hav­ing a Cus­tomer cen­tric team through­out the or­gan­i­sa­tion is a recipe for cus­tomer de­light. Hire peo­ple with a car­ing at­ti­tude and great val­ues. En­cour­age em­ploy­ees to be great lis­ten­ers. Cus­tomer pas­sion must be like a re­li­gion in your com­pany.

Give Both em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers your full sup­port and openly rec­og­nize their im­por­tance to the prof­itabil­ity and suc­cess of your busi­ness. That’s how bonds of loy­alty and com­mit­ment are formed, one cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence at a time.

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