Customer focus should be the foundation of your business – the thing you build everything else on. If you can’t supply what your customers want to the standard they want, you’ll spend more time rectifying problems than solving them.
In part one of this seven-part series, we’re looking closely at customer focus. Just like any area of your business, you don’t have to do everything at once – you can build a fantastic customer experience a piece at a time.
1. Identify your direct and indirect customers
It sounds obvious that you need to know who your customers are, but it’s surprising how many businesses don’t really understand their customer profile.
As well as identifying your direct customers, it’s important to understand who your indirect customers are – who are your customers’ customers? For example, if you make electrical components, who are you supplying and who is buying their products?
2. Understand customer needs and expectations
It doesn’t matter how good you think a product is; you need people who will buy it. And people will only buy it if they see value in it.
How will it benefit them, improve their life or solve a problem?
If you take time to understand your customers, you can identify their challenges and motivations, which allows you to create products and services that meet their needs more closely.
3. Align objectives with customer needs and expectation
Once you have clarified who your customers are and what they need and expect, your business objectives should be aligned to meet those expectations.
Use your customers to guide your business decisions. Whenever you are considering a change – whether it be to your product line, your materials, your ordering process, your systems – ask yourself how this will impact your ability to meet your customers’ needs.
If it doesn’t have a positive impact on your customers, then it is probably worth reconsidering.
4. Ensure products and services meet customer needs
So many businesses have fallen by the wayside because they stop putting their customers first. Either they don’t evolve their products and services when they should, or they make changes that negatively impact customer experience.
Retailers that failed to acknowledge the growth in eCommerce. Manufacturers that switched to lower quality materials to save a few pounds. Service providers that cut frontline staff.
Losing sight of your customers' needs is one of the quickest ways to damage your business – sometimes irreparably.
5. Measure customer satisfaction and take action
To keep meeting your customers’ needs, you have to listen to them. And that means measuring their satisfaction levels and acting accordingly.
Don’t work on the ‘no news is good news’ philosophy. While it’s always good that your customers aren’t complaining, you should be concerned if they aren’t praising you either.
You want customers to make repeat purchases, remain loyal and recommend you. If they aren’t, you need to find out why.
Get processes in place for collecting and recording customer feedback and use this feedback – positive or negative – to keep improving your operations
6. Communicate with customers and manage relationships
Effective communication is vital – marketing communications, order acknowledgements, delivery updates, follow-ups, feedback requests, complaints handling – you need processes in place for every stage.
Communicate with your customers. Make them feel valued. Have an effective complaints procedure – deal with complaints quickly and follow up with customers to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome.
Making a mistake won’t necessarily lose you a customer, but a lack of acknowledgement probably will.
7. Look for improvement opportunities
Creating a great customer experience doesn’t happen overnight. There are always ways to improve your processes at some or all stages of the customer journey. Whether that’s finding ways to simplify your ordering process or looking at how you can increase your feedback rates.
It’s easier to spot improvement opportunities if you have systems and processes in place that allow you to collect data that can be acted on.
The Systems Link can help you get these systems and processes in place, helping you implement business management systems based on ISO frameworks.
How ISO 9001 frameworks can improve customer focus
Not all businesses need or want ISO certification. But you don’t have to be ISO certified to benefit from ISO methodology.
The overriding purpose of ISO 9001 is to ensure quality, so it stands to reason that if your business implements the framework, you’ll deliver a more consistent quality of products and services, which leads to:
- Higher customer satisfaction and fewer complaints
- Improved customer acquisition and retention
- Increased customer value
- Better reputation
- Increased profits
Whether you decide to gain ISO certification or not is irrelevant. The important part is getting the systems in place that help you achieve the above.
If you’d like to find out more about how implementing ISO methodology can help you build a world-class business, with or without the certification, then get in touch.