Communication: The exchange of ideas, messages, or information by speech, signals, or writing. Or, a system for sending and receiving messages, as through telecommunications.
How are you getting messages from your customers? Do you have the tools in place to allow them to provide you the feedback critical to your business success? Moreover, how do you use the information gathered from your various means of communicating with your customers?
The best way to determine a customer’s level of satisfaction, or what additional products or services the customer might want, is to ask. However, you may not always have the opportunity to interact with every person who comes into your store or who orders online from you. So what lines of communication can you open to customers that will serve both of you well? How will you let them know that you value them and their opinions?
First, review all the information you have gathered thus far from a variety of means: conversation, email, letters, word-of-mouth, and even your competition. Identify the nuggets of feedback that have caused you to do something differently; perhaps a whole new train of thought about your product or service resulted from you having that information.
Secondly, analyze the information and its source from every possible angle. Was it reliable, logical, and feasible? If it was not immediately applicable when received, could it eventually have merit? What advantages would working this knowledge into your strategy have for you and your business?
Next, don’t let the customers with the suggestions off the hook. Let them know you have received their communicated message and you are interested in knowing more. If their request is not within your business parameters, let them know why and offer alternatives. The ultimate message sent here is that you care enough to solicit their feedback and, when possible, implement it.
And, the customer with the complaint is not to be ignored — at all. Remember, the person complaining is expressing a need. Your job as a small-business owner is to determine the source of that complaint (need) and offer the solution. Involving this customer in the solution is to open wide lines of communication and establish a loyal customer.
Finally, the lines of communication will be demonstrated in your promotional packages. Because you know your customers, what they want, and how to reach them, they will accept your marketing outreach and offers as credible deals. They will recognize themselves as your preferred customer.
Remember, ask the question and be prepared to acknowledge the response.
Nancy Ansteth is a New York State certified business advisor with the Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (315) 498-6072.