Understanding customers

When CEO’s and business owners get back to basics, roll their sleeves up and visit  customers the knowledge learnt is immense often contributing towards considerable additional business.  FCG Consultancy’s Jonathan Wainwright explains why using a third party organisation to facilitate this brings dividends……

The first thing to appreciate is that, despite what they may say, customer facing teams are generally wary about this kind of customer survey. 

They are perceived as of little benefit to them and they will become wary as they have a habit of highlighting to the senior team their shortcomings.  This means that if they are involved in the process they tend to be highly selective, including ‘Pet’ customers who will support them or alternatively try to drag the activity out stalling progress. 

Furthermore, to protect their interests they may also wish to join the meeting which then means that the likelihood of anything meaningful coming out of it is practically zero, apart from a nice warm feeling. 

The truth of the matter is that this exercise is only fruitful when skeletons come out of the cupboard and can be addressed.  All things being equal on the product or service stakes, these are generally the reasons why customers don’t repeat purchase, stop buying additional products or place bigger, more lucrative orders with competitors.

These are the key areas to explore……..

  1. Outline SWOT to identify purchase triggers and lost opportunity within the customer base.  This gives an unbiased snapshot and change indicators to put to the test
  2. KPI’s and sales audit to identify the accounts, which on paper, present the best opportunity
  3. Help select the organisations to include within the process
  4. Prepare questionnaire/discussion document for use at meetings, to make sure that no stone is left unturned
  5. How to positioning the process to customers, so that they see it as a benefit to them, helping improve their perception of their business
  6. Meetings/telephone appointment logistics/transport
  7. Pre-qualification of customer prior to the visit to identify any information that would be of help to them prior to the meeting and to place the event
  8. Support during the process as an independent research organisation which means that difficult questions maybe asked without sidetracking the conversation into a complete can of worms
  9. Provide a follow-up report amalgamating the data and creating an ‘Action’ list for follow-up activity as required
  10. Customer follow-up communication and offer to thank them for their time, for example free additional product with an order.

They are relatively inexpensive and quick to complete and in an unsettled market place can provide invaluable customer information and competitor intelligence.  And also achieve orders!

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