thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Can I Have Your Customers?

By on January 28, 2009

If a competitor asked you this question, your emphatic answer would be "No Way!" Customers are assets. You wouldn't give up your computers or manufacturing equipment, would you? Well, now is the optimum time to upgrade your strategy with a serious focus on thinking like your customers.

In these severe economic times, the competition is getting fiercer. Don't passively believe that repeat business is the same as customer loyalty. Instead of complacency, take custody of your customers and then find a strategy to not only keep them, but to dazzle them. What worked 1-2 years ago should be revisited and enhanced, because those ideas are not good enough to carry your company forward.

Ironically, while I am advocating for stronger customer thinking, there are still companies going the opposite direction in an attempt to lower operating expenses. For example, I was disappointed to hear that Starbucks' announcement today about discontinuing ready-to-serve decaffeinated coffee, as a cost reduction step. In the future, customers wanting decaf will have to wait four minutes while a pot is brewed for them. Starbucks is an organization that built its reputation on reaching out to customers, not irritating them to accommodate an internal procedure that will benefit only the company.

Likewise, my mobile phone provider is missing a real opportunity by staffing its cancellation-of-service department with some of its weakest employees. This week I called the company to inquire about the steps I need to take to switch to another provider. I wasn't unhappy, but simply wanted a newer smart-phone that my provider did not offer. Their representative was inadequately trained in methods designed to keep me as a customer. Had she just been more persuasive, I would probably have upgraded to one of their newer phones and been completely satisfied. If she had even acknowledged that I had been a customer of that company for over six years, this information would have given me some assurance that she knew my loyalty personality and that I would most likely stay if she could better understand my needs. Of course, I will be changing to the new provider by the end of this week.

This churning of customers might be termed a "customerry-go-round". We all live on borrowed time with our customers, but with a systematic effort we can keep them longer. With the gloomy economy ahead for most organizations in 2009, the maneuvering of your competitors will only become more calculated. Their approach will be more customer-focused and will be very appealing to many of your current customers. Companies that ignore their customers will even allow new competitors to emerge. "Business as usual" will quickly translate into falling behind. Unless your organization has a strong relationship and brand and, at the same time, anticipates your customers' future needs, it could experience a slide toward extinction.

Your competitors are right now saying, "I can outthink you. I will secretly lure your customers away from you by offering them innovative products and services that are easier, faster, and smarter and that provide them with solutions that they value." And, when I take your customer, I won't even say ‘please.'

Merely hoping for continued success will not work anymore. Keeping customers is a full-contact sport and your game plan needs to be aggressive and proactive. Forward thinking involves anticipating a different future, with customers comparing your performance with ever-changing opportunities in the market. Staying ahead of your competition only happens when you and your team are thinking like your customers.

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