Don’t Forget to Listen to Your Customers
As 2011 winds down, I spend considerable time evaluating where we’ve been and where we need to go in the coming year. As much as possible, I visit with clients and ask questions, so I can get a better feel for how our firm can support every engagement.
This year, something important came through in my various discussions. Organizations are so busy executing their plans, that they may be forgetting some important issues critical to mid and long term success. These things are basic, but essential, and include:
Without clients, there is no business. The assumptions that are placed in ratios, percentages, and related product release expectations are potentially off target. Smaller entities being crushed by larger budgets is not sales growth. Saved expenses due to fewer employees is not increased profit (well, it is, but only if your sales continue or grow).
Overall, with only several exceptions, I’ve been hearing that businesses are too busy to listen to their customers. In many cases, they’re coming up with ideas, and pushing forward without taking the time to evaluate the real purpose or opportunity that may exist.
What’s the solution? The first thing is to take the time to listen. There’s no shortage of opinion in today’s world, and social media is only one part of how the listening game works. Regardless of strategy, spending time with your best (and worst) customers can be enlightening.
Secondly, the use of resources is something not to be overlooked. We work with several firms where the performance metric is exclusive from any other – including morale, leadership development, skills improvement, etc. The potential for “Brain Drain” is huge and in some cases creates significant uncertainty.
While we can’t change that frame of mind in our clients, we can reinforce it in ourselves. We want to know what our customers are thinking. We want to know what is required to make 2012 a better year. And if we listen hard enough, I think we’ll have an opportunity to better and benefit our customers. And isn’t that what the entire relationship is all about?