Happy New Year! It is a time of reflection and a time of looking forward. I know there are many who want to forget the last year and many also who have much to be grateful for. Whichever part of the economy you are in, there is still nothing which prevents you from going after your dreams.
I wanted to offer a resolution that is tangible and will benefit you greatly. You want more business and you want more relationships. We are living in the thick of the new economy. How we connect with each other is completely different than twenty years ago. How about having resolution to remember your customer. Here is how:
Make your business and yourself the EASIEST to do business with.
If you will focus on this one thing, your relationships will grow. Strangers will become friends and opportunities will abound. If you do not do this one thing, then a nagging feeling should gnaw at the back of your mind of all the missed opportunities you have not heard about.
Think about it. You have done it as a customer as well. If you have to thumb through a phone directory, you may leave it altogether and find another vendor. If the wait is too long at a restaurant, you will leave and go elsewhere. If a person has to call you to start the buying process rather than interact with your intelligent e-commerce site, then you have likely lost to your competitor who does.
Every year, we are all getting less patient. It is indeed the age of speed. Our society is continually thinking in soundbites and moving with rapidity. Try taking three days to get back to someone looking for information. Your probabilities of gaining new business is inversely proportional to your responsiveness.
Our team consults with businesses on how to connect with the customer through sales and marketing systems. A large part of most business failures in this area stem from the inability to think in terms of “them” (the customer) and only in terms of “us” (our company). Here is the rub – your customer is not thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves and their pleasant experience or their inconvenience.
Try something today. Pretend you want to move some items and need to rent a moving truck. Go to www.penske.com and see if you can get this done. Next go to www.uhaul.com and do the same. Who would you do business with? Why?
Now, which one are you more like in terms of making the buying process for your customer as easy as possible? There are many examples of competing businesses which have the same contrasts in how they help the customer buy.
The systems you have in place determine how easy it is for customers to reach you, connect with you and make a decision.
If you can look past yourself and see your customer, then here are five things you can do to make it easier to do business with you:
- Let your customer get answers at your website. Make it functional, not just a bunch of pretty pictures. People are on sites for less than 40 seconds. Again, we are impatient. Make it easy to get in and get out.
- Build a knowledge base. Ensure it is searchable and accessible. Keep growing it. Take the answer you give and leverage it for the masses.
- Put your BlackBerry on speed. If you don’t have one, then you are disadvantaged. Get your calendaring, email, database and information synced and accessible in real-time so you can do business anytime, anywhere. Make appointments on the spot, respond in five minutes, and keep it in your system rather than your head. Your head is for making decisions. Your system is for managing data.
- Use collaboration systems. Document management which lives on the web and is able to be used for projects with your customers is increasingly critical. All data is temporary. It is brought together and molded for a temporal purpose and then disbanded. If you are emailing, you are in the old economy. If you are sharing, you are engaging your customer in the experience and process.
- Refine, refine, refine. Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” An unexamined business falls behind every day. Think like a FedEx engineer. They are looking at every micro-step trying to shave off seconds on a delivery process. They put in props like ramps for walking and better driving routes and more effective tools to make their team’s work go faster with ease. Do the same for your customer. Their buying process can likely be streamlined. Make it happen and watch repeat business happen.
It is becoming less of an option to do business the old fashion way. You are demanding. You are a product of our society. We expect empowerment and to make purchases with ease at midnight. You are competing with Amazon, Kinkos and Marriott. Because everyone is a consumer, they have been exposed to multiple businesses that get it right. Then they run into your business and judge whether it measures up to their collective experience of excellence.
If you don’t get in the game, then you have to manage the customer’s expectations. Management of expectations is not bringing value. It is a cover-up of irrelevance creeping in. Resolve in this year to make yourself the easiest person to do business with. Put the foundation in and watch your business scale. It takes talent to implement what I am talking about here. If you want to gain this advantage, start your year by taking this next step.