Face Reality: Most companies in most industries will not discover the “silver bullet”, the “magic elixir” that returns them to the exciting growth track of the past. As Yogi Berra said:
The future ain’t going be what it used to be.
Instead, growth will come from serving current customers better and (as a Bain and Company study found) “finding profitable opportunities within the boundaries of current operations.”
Thus, your most likely success strategy will come from growing outward from your current customer base. To do this, you need to turn your current satisfied customers into your biggest allies and best friends.
1. Survey them
2. Listen to them
3. Team with them
1. Survey Your Customers
Institute a simple customer satisfaction survey. GE and others have used a two question customer satisfaction survey with success:
1. On a scale of 0 – 10, how likely are you to recommend this supplier to other people?
a. 0 – 3: Negative
b. 4 – 7: Neutral
c. 8 – 10: Positive
2. Do you have any comments or suggestions for ways that we can serve you better?
With such a survey, you learn whether your customers are satisfied or not. This can be a yellow warning light to make you aware of problems or of your company’s need to enhance or improve your product or service.
The key is to make this survey or any survey as easy to respond to as possible so that your customers actually respond to your survey request. Alas, many companies try to make it easier for them to collect and collate the survey results while making it harder and thus less likely for the customer to respond. Instead, stick the short survey in an E-Mail and ask the customer to answer the questions and hit the Reply button. Personally, I am glad to respond to a survey like that. It takes me two minutes and I get a chance to share my thoughts. But, I rarely click on a hyperlink to take me to a survey. It takes too much time, and I dread that the survey is going to be 30 questions long.
For those customers who are unsatisfied, follow up and redress the issues raised; make sure that the customers know that you have heard them. For those customers that are very satisfied, ask if you can use them as references or ask for testimonials.
2. Listen to Your Customers
Your current customers are a gold mine of information if you listen to them. If you pay attention they will give you a deeper understanding of their industry and your competitive position as a supplier. They may tell you about:
• Upcoming changes at their companies and other companies in their industry
• Your relative competitive position in the market
• New opportunities in their industry or in other industries
All of this information is invaluable in helping you grow and improve your business. If your salespeople are not getting this feedback, train them how to ask and listen better. Further, as the leader, get out into the field, speak with customers, and get this information yourself.
To be continued next week with Task III (Team with Your Customers)…
This blog is an excerpt from David Shedd’s recently published book, Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company, now available on Amazon.com.