There’s a lot of experts out there and they will give you every piece of advice imaginable – some great and some not so great. But you know who will give you the best advice of all? Well – I already gave it away in the title. It’s the customers or clients who keep your business alive.
Every business owner gets inspiration from time to time and can get carried away by their own bright ideas for their next phase of expansion. Some ideas will be winners and some won’t. The best way to find out on these matters is to ask your customers.
Sometimes you have to use some subtlety in your questions to get the right answers but in other situations, you can just ask straight out what you want to know.
Restaurants, Salons, Contractors – Anyone Can Use this Technique
Here’s some ways that a business can use this idea to get the right data out of their customers:
Want to change your hours? Ask what hours your customers would prefer. Give them choices or ask them to fill in the blanks.
For example, a restaurant just open for dinner had better find out if their most loyal customers are even in the neighborhood at lunchtime and if they are, what they want to eat.
On the other hand, a sidewalk survey, walking up to people who walk by during lunchtime, will help you find out what you need to do to attract new business. What do they want to eat for lunch? What price do they want to pay?
Here’s Where a More Subtle Touch Was Needed
Here’s a more subtle example. Think you need to make staffing changes? Ask your customers to vote for their favorite employees and comment on the service they received that prompted the vote. Then review the performance of the staff who didn’t rate high in these reviews.
Wonder if you need new items on a menu of dishes served at a restaurant or services provided at a salon? Ask which items are their favorites and which ones they would like to see added. This can be done with a response card left at the cashier desk but even better would be sending out a letter to every customer – ones you’ve seen and ones who have not been around in a while. This little survey will help remind the ones you haven’t seen in a while how wonderful you are.
Even a contractor can do this kind of survey among his customers. Get some cheerful young person on the phone to ask past customers what their biggest home repair concerns are or what home improvements they would most like to make. Then work out a few special offers that you launch over the next few months.
A word of warning, though. Sometimes people will give you answers that aren’t necessarily true. Here’s an example: A small restaurant wants to expand its menu so it asks customers for the dishes they would like to see on the menu. A postcard mailer brings in the response that 35% of their customers would like to add liver to the menu. For real? You’ve got to use common sense in these matters and realize that people can get an idea in their heads that they will never follow up on. In this case, it turns out that Oprah Winfrey just featured a nutrition expert on her network who heavily promoted the benefits of liver in the diet. Well… those folks are never going to actually EAT it but they’ll say they want it. So use common sense.
In addition to finding out what people want to see among your product or service offerings, you empower your clients by asking for their input. This can build their sense of loyalty.
So it’s a win-win – they get to feel included and you get some intelligence from the field on how you can tailor your offerings to your customers’ needs. Add a dose of common sense and you can have the guidance you need to expand.