QC #2: Five Questions to Meet Customer Expectations
Last week as we started walking through the quality control (QC) opportunities, we touched on understanding customers. This blog digs a little deeper but addresses the issue from the perspective of their expectations. Knowing your customer’s expectations helps a business owner understand the motivation behind purchases and uncovers some of the drivers behind seasonal (or weekly) fluctuations in business. Below are 5 easy questions for addressing expectations.
What are my customer’s expectations?
The first step to understanding customer’s expectations is to ask. Connect with as many customers as possible on a one-on-one basis. Seek honest feedback and train yourself to listen. Your interaction could be as simple as asking, “What did you come in to buy today?” Stick with the customer as long as possible through the transaction (without being overbearing or creepy). The customer is a wealthy of knowledge about your demographics and perceived value. Customers can also pose problems you didn’t know you could solve for them which generates more revenue in the future.
You can also start the ball rolling with surveys and feedback boxes. SurveyMonkey is an easy website to use but you can also expand your presence with some of the survey matchmaker websites like Pinecone and MySurvey.
Invest in focus groups. It allows you to get real-time, honest feedback on your products. Focus groups are best if they are outsourced. Companies specializing in focus groups will typically hold multiple focus groups with diverse populations in each one. Hold multiple focus group sessions for each major product improvement to ensure you are heading in the right direction. If you are still unsure about focus groups, check out some of the YouTube videos of focus groups …
Kids & Dinner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfIt7Gsej0c
Chevy Trucks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Ra94SzMBs
Focus Groups for Research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLw0YXcseG0
What are my expectations?
What expectations do you have of your customer? Do you expect them to seek out your business or wait passively until you reach out to them? Do you expect customers to tell you when they receive bad service or surreptitiously post bad comments on social media? You will never have 100% of customers fall in one discrete group. However, you must acknowledge your biases and try to strengthen the areas of marketing or customer grooming where you are weak.
Are our expectations of each other realistic?
This is a rather easy task but one we often overlook. Just because a customer wants a dress in size 2 doesn’t mean you should make all of your dresses in size 2. Don’t change your product or service unless it is an intentional change in strategy or tactics. Never change as a knee-jerk reaction to a customer comment because you will probably be left holding the bag (i.e., you will have sunk valuable time and money in something that only one person wants to buy).
What am I delivering to the customer?
What did the customer walk out with after the purchase? No. This isn’t the product or service you sold. What was the benefit to the customer? When I go to the pool supply store and pick up chlorine for my spa, I didn’t buy chlorine. I bought a relaxing evening in the hot tub with the jets powering away the stress of the day. Your commitment to the customer doesn’t end at the door. Ensure you are delivering on customer expectations before, during, and after the purchase.
The perceived quality of your product or service must be slightly higher than the perceived cost. If you use a low-cost strategy, make sure the product can at least be used a few times before it breaks. For niche strategies, make sure your environment and the customer experience are unique.
What is the gap between expectation and the actual product? What is my plan to overcome it?
You’ve polled your customers. You’ve examined your expectations. You’ve considered whether the collective expectations are realistic. And you’ve evaluated the quality of your product or service. Now, you need to decide if there is a gap and make a plan to overcome it.
There is an enormous amount of data coming in from the surveys, feedback boxes, focus groups, and other market research. A small team can analyze data to (1) establish your baseline numbers, (2) identify peer-group industry leader metrics, and (3) distill the growing data into actionable information. All of the activity above needs to be leveraged through customer service data analytics programs.
Your action plan may include easing into a new market, redesigning your product line, more aggressively marketing existing products, or changing your business name. Always bring in the advice of a professional business consultant, trusted family and friends, or fellow business owners to figure out the best way to make the change. The worst thing you can do at this point is to know that something needs to be changed but not to ask for help and advice before making the shift.
How do you try to meet your customer’s changing expectations?