Do You Know What Your Customers Are Really Thinking?

Most businesses are aware that it makes sense to keep in touch with customers. They know it costs less to keep a customer than to gain a new one. They know customer follow up increases retention. They know customer feedback is the best way to keep up with the market. Unfortunately, active customer follow-up does not happen. It becomes the nonessential item pushed aside by weightier issues. Does this sound familiar? Often businesses perform passive customer analysis. They look at why and when customers contact the business. They look at purchasing trends. Passive analysis is important, but proactive follow-up with customers is essential. On average only 1 in 20 customers who have a complaint will call and inform the business. Occasionally a customer will deliver a compliment. With passive analysis, businesses miss out on important feedback from those who never call. Businesses have the opportunity to tap into an untapped resource by contacting their customers. Implementation Businesses must first determine what goals they wants to accomplish from customer follow-up. These goals may vary from product/service satisfaction; new product need; product/service reliability; staff performance; marketing strategies; priority notification; building trust and relationships; more product usage; to reduction in complaints. The goal must clearly fit into the strategic business plan and benefit customers, employees, sales staff, vendors, and stockholders. It takes a combination of written and oral communication to satisfy these goals. Customers should know their business is valued. When appropriate, referrals can be obtained during customer contact. If additional products or services are shared with the customer, let the customer choose whether or not they want to be contacted by a sales rep--don't use this contact to sell products or services. Proactive contact puts the customer back in control of the business relationship. Customers are more likely to share their feedback once they know their input is valued. Benefits and Results
Businesses will find communication with customers leads to collecting much information previously lost. Technology plays an important role in allowing an effective way to collect customer data, particularly customer feedback. Businesses can learn specific areas to target in marketing. Follow-up involves reminding customers of the key benefits. It is interesting to note sometimes customers say they didn't like the service or product at first. It's difficult to get these customers to stay long enough to see benefit. Follow-up keeps them connected in those initial postdecision months. Feedback collected shows an eyes-wide-open view. Knowing what customers really think about the business is how successful businesses stay on top. All businesses are competing for customers and their purchasing power. Proactive customer analysis is an important step in understanding the various levels of any business. It's never too late to find out what your customers are really thinking. You won't regret the results. About the Author Terri Schepps is the president of Integrity For You Inc., www.integrityforyou.com, located in Dallas. IFYI was cofounded with Ms. Terry Rucker-Wilhite in October 2000 as a vision to provide proactive customer service to businesses seeking growth through customer contact. She also serves as a board member of IFYI. Before joining IFYI, Terri gained experience by working very closely with other businesses on a consulting basis. Prior to consulting, she worked with a leading natural gas supplier and was focused on accounting and customer relationships. Terri can be contacted at tschepps@integrityforyou.com Related articles: Report: Companies Need Coherent Customer Survey Strategies The Benefits of Communicating With Customers Customer feedback can have a significant impact on satisfaction and loyalty.
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