Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why You Need to Become Your Own Customer

Whenever you walk down a high street crammed with shops, restaurants, boutiques and other specialist stores, have you ever noticed that there is usually a certain business, a particular restaurant or a particular store that is nearly always full or has a queue of people waiting to get in?
Why is it that in certain restaurants it's impossible to book a table unless you do so days or weeks in advance, and certain shops and stores are so popular that they can't keep up with demand from their customers?
What is it that makes these small businesses so popular and special, while others around them always appear empty or never seem to have the same buzz associated with customers clamouring to buy their products and services?
The thing that sets these businesses apart is almost certainly down to one factor: they have managed to offer a standard of service that is over and above anything provided by their rivals.
In other words, they offer a service that is efficient, convenient and completely satisfying for their customers. They provide an enjoyable experience and a business encounter so pleasurable that their customers will go there over and over again, and urge all their friends and acquaintances to do the same.
The big mistake made by small business owners who do not satisfy their customers to this level is that they usually fail to look at their business in the same way that their customers do.
It never occurs to them that they should regularly put themselves in their customers' shoes and look for any faults, confusing information or ways to improve the efficiency and friendliness of their service - and hence improve their sales.
If you genuinely want to maximise your sales potential, you always need to look at your business as if you were a customer.
How should you do this?
As a small business owner, there are a few simple ways that you can experience what it's like to be a customer of your own. For example:
·         You could ask your staff what they know about your products and services.
·         You could send away for your own information.
·         You could buy your own product from your online store.
·         You could visit and download pages from your own website.
·         You could walk into your own shop, restaurant or office as if you were a visitor or customer, and try to see things as they would see them.
By doing this, you will spot ways that your standards of service, first impressions and a feeling of welcome could be improved.
If you operate in a highly competitive business sector (well, who doesn't these days?) the more that you do to improve your service and make it a pleasant experience for customers to do business with you, the more likely they will be to take out their wallets or credit card to spend with you.
Here are a few quickfire questions and pointers to consider which could help any small business improve the standard of its service.
·         Are all your staff knowledgeable and helpful to your customers?
·         Do your staff completely understand what they are selling?
·         Do your staff and your business appear to be an authority on subjects to do with your industry or trade?
·         Is your reception area tidy and well-organised? Is it always like this?
·         Do your customers ever have to wait an unreasonable amount of time to be served or to have their enquiry dealt with?
·         Do the employees who answer the phone do so in a professional, friendly and consistent manner?
·         Are your premises, or the parts of your premises that customers visit, impeccably clean at all times?
·         Do you, your business and all your staff operate a 'service culture' that will go that extra mile to help, please and astound your customers?
Give this a try if you can by putting yourself in your customers' shoes for a while. You'll almost certainly be surprised by what you see and if you get into the habit of doing this on a regular basis you will also be surprised at how quickly and profitably you can make improvements to your service.

Last of all, and not at all cynically, by having customers who think you are great you create the opportunities to 'upsell' or to 'cross sell' to them. This is a skill in its own right and not to be undertaken casually. It is the subject of another article.

BobShepherd Associates builds businesses from the first principles or improves businesses that have already developed.  Some of the techniques described above are used to pin point what's needed by a client.

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