As a professional service provider to small and medium sized businesses I get to meet and talk to clients in a variety of industries. In most cases, I find businesses that have stalled from a growth perspective and are struggling to find new business opportunities.
As a starting point for my discussion with clients I often ask whether they have any feedback from their existing customers about what they are doing well or not so well? Usually the business owners or senior people don’t have any formal customer information. They typically rely on anecdotal information from their sales people to help them gauge customer satisfaction or identify new business opportunities.
Whether you’re a $100 Million business or a $5 Million business, you should be using customer research as a strategic tool to help guide your decision making process. Businesses that are truly “customer focused” understand this and rely on accurate and timely information about their customers. Think of it this way, how else do you know when you’re doing a good job if you don’t ask your customers?
A west coast home building company, I recently consulted with, that designs and builds over 100 homes per year doesn’t do any research with existing or prospective customers. This is a company generating in excess of $35 million a year in revenue. Are they missing an opportunity? Absolutely.
Targeted and select research with customers can uncover service issues, design flaws, quality improvement opportunities that can all lead to incremental business. Businesses can’t operate in a vacuum. Being open to feedback and constructive input from customers about your business is how you grow. Fixing problems and enhancing your value proposition all starts with your customers.
Something as simple as semi-annual or annual customer satisfaction research can be very revealing about a variety of areas in a business. You can also tap in to your customers as a source of innovation and ideas by asking the right questions about current and potential products. Most customers are eager to provide feedback so take advantage of it.
Don’t wait for things to go wrong, ask customers first and you will find new areas to grow your business.