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Article -> Anticipate Customers Needs

This article also has an attached file, you may read it by clicking here. PDF

Date Added: October 2006

For most organizations, there is a gap between a company’s customer communications and the customer’s expectations.
 
While many companies feel they do a good job of communicating with customers, their customers often disagree.  Communication is the cornerstone of your business because, “even your best friends won’t tell you the truth, but they will talk behind your back.” Make sure customers don’t talk behind your back by learning what they’re saying and what they need – before needs become wants.
 
Few companies proactively ask customers – instead they make assumptions about customer desires.  Historically, people are more willing to offer candid responses to independent parties that guarantee confidentiality.
 
We find that companies overestimate relationships with certain customers.  To maintain your competitive advantage and build customer loyalty, it is vital to discover key customer insights.  Even salespeople with a willingness to ask the right questions come to “know what they don’t know” after undergoing a “Voice of the Customer” process.
 
In our experience, a Voice of the Customer process reveals many common issues, which can become opportunities for you and your customers, including:
  • Corporate headquarters is too slow. Companies are slow to react to sales requests for customers, resulting in customer dissatisfaction.  
  • Service and delivery timing.  Generally, service and delivery are extremely important to customers; however, some do not see these as vital.  For example, one of our clients has a seven-day turnaround time on orders (vs. the industry’s standard 14 day delivery).  We uncovered that one of their leading customers, a loyal client for more than a decade, felt a 14-day delivery period was sufficient, and didn’t appreciate paying for the “value” of a shorter lead time.  
  • Continuous strategic planning.  Proper planning closes gaps. Another discovery was a company’s strategic plan that didn’t have a goal to resolve customer issues.  It’s important to detect and rapidly resolve problems with top customers to maintain those critical relationships.  
  • Lack of trust.  Organizations and customers are often confined to strict roles of supplier/buyer.  Companies should consider revealing information and including customers in business functions to gain insight and trust.
    • Allow customers to know and understand continuous improvement ideas.
    • Share information to benefit the customer.
    • Focus on innovation, and use it to improve processes.
    • Ask for feedback regularly to prove dedication to customer needs.
    • Know how your customers’ business functions.
 
Listening to the Voice of the Customer to discover and/or validate customer needs is the best way to deliver customer-focused solutions.  Maintaining relationships takes time and effort, and if your organization can proactively and repeatedly meet your customers’ expectations, maximizing profitability will occur.
 
This article was also featured in the Green Bay Press Gazette on Tuesday September 5, 2006. S:\Knowledge Center\Articles on website\Customers\AnticipateCustomersNeedsPG090506.pdf
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