QC #1: Understand Your Customers

I have a friend who is preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. He is working on a case study that sparked a debate between the two of us about how best to tackle a loss in market share. We came up with 6 quality control (QC) initiatives to improve business performance which aligns rather well with the theme of the blog. There is no reason to recreate the wheel so I’ve broken up our discussion over the next few posts.

The first QC initiative is to understand your customer. We think we know our customers. We see them walk in, buy what they “need”, and walk out. What more do we need to know? Well … a lot more.

Shifting Demographics 

Your company’s market demographics may have shifted since inception. You need to understand your current segments, the segments who no longer do business with you, and potential segments you and your competitors have not tapped in to yet.

If you are like most small businesses, your first thought is “How do I find any of this information?” The easiest way to capture this information is to offer loyalty programs to drill down into your customer base. Who is a repeat customer? When do your customers buy certain items? When your customer buys product A, do they also buy product T? Some loyalty programs allow you to proactively market to your customers based on their buying history. Belly and Affinity Solutions are two programs that offer services to small businesses.

Keeping Customers

You also need to identify customers who will not come back and why they don’t stay with you. Customer attrition is to be expected. You can’t make everyone happy but you can improve their experience.

There is a store called Sensually Yours on O’ahu. Their employees are professional, courteous, and friendly. No nervous giggling or whispering when you ask a question. The store is well-lit, organized, and clean. Their business is hopping especially around 6:00 pm on weekdays and their main customers are couples. Why couples? This is when couples finally get time away from work and children to look for something to keep the spark going. Couples are also attracted to the “normal” atmosphere. Sensually Yours has overcome one of the hurdles to repeat business; they have made going to the adult bookstore normal for the average couple.

Singing Praises

We need to find our influential customer advocates. These are the evangelists who sing our praises on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Amazon, etc. We should engage customers with large social media presences as beta testers or alpha readers. What better way to market your goods than with early adopters who get to tell the world about it first?

Outsource your social media representatives if you don’t have time (or the inclination) to do it yourself. Check out one of the matchmaker sites we talked about in Priority Management Not Time Management. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and you will connect with a social media expert.

Talking to Customers

This is going to sound crazy but talk to your customers. It’s always to tough to watch a customer walk out of a business without anyone saying hello or goodbye. Get out from behind the counter and see what is going on in the store. Owners should mingle with their customers, even if they only say hello. Owners should train personnel to mingle and show them how to make customers feel comfortable.

Talking to customers helps you understand what your customers like, what they don’t like, and what they wish you could do for them. If you can’t give them what they are looking for, help them find another place that has it for them. They will be more likely to come back because you made an effort to build a relationship. And we all know that business runs at the speed of relationships and trust.

How do you better understand your customers?

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