“But business is simple dad? All you need to do is to understand who your customer is, what they need and how much they will pay.” (quote from my son at age 14 when he could not understand why anyone would pay me for business advice).
And he was right (to an extent) but obviously it is more complicated than that. Most businesses are set up because someone has a passion or skill and wants to use that to generate income.
And so, a business gets started, the owner has designed a product or service then sets out to convince people to buy it. As the business grows, they come up with more ideas, build more products and services and persuade more people to buy them – and so the cycle continues.
But when a business does this, they are missing the easiest and best way to develop the right products and services because they do not ask their customers (only 30% of UK businesses ask customers for feedback and only 10% actually use that feedback).
I have seen business experts say you shouldnot ask your customer what they want – quoting Apple (which customer would ever have said they wanted a phone that could take pictures) and Henry Ford (if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse and cart). And they are right – but also wrong! The best businesses understand their customers and what they need. And they do that by asking their customers.
So, here are the key steps to researching and understanding your customers’ needs:
Adopting a process such as this gets your customers feeling valued and involved in your business. It increases customer loyalty, drives referrals and increases the chances of new products and services becoming profitable quickly.
The key questions:
To set expectations, preface with a statement that explains why you are asking the questions such as: At (company) we are continually looking to deliver better products and services for our customers. We have found the best way to do that is to ask what you need and then to deliver it for you. Here are some ideas we have for new products/services/features and we would love your opinion:
List a proposed product/feature/service, explain it simply in language the customer would understand and the benefit it would give them. For example:
“We know that our customers are busy and look to save time whenever they can, so we are considering our order process. The change would mean you will be able, as an existing customer, to place a repeat order online with one click. We can also set up reminders so you would never run out of X again, avoiding any downtime for you”.
Repeat this for each new idea (do not ask for feedback for more than 5 new ideas at a time).
Finally, explain what will happen next (once we have had your feedback: “we will use it to decide what changes are most important to you and start to implement them. We will tell you what changes we are making and when they will be delivered. If you think of anything else we could do to help you, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you for your help”.
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