Is That It? By Avril Millar

When we make anything (babies, bread, boomerangs), we tend to rather like the outcome. We look at our creations and think, ‘That’ll do nicely.’ Similarly, when we do anything, we think we’re doing the right thing (unless we’re psychopaths, in which case the right thing is the wrong thing). 

Which is why, for many businesses who make/sell things or services, we feel in our bones that we’ve got it right. Who wouldn’t like what we’ve made/done? And if people keep using our services or buying our goods, we assume that we’re giving them what they want.  But how do you know if what you’re offering is really hitting the spot with your clients and customers, before they tell the world what they think of you or wander off to a competitor – and remember they tell more people when they’re disappointed than when they’re happy? 

You need to start with your value proposition. What value are you giving customers? With the help of expert business mentor Avril Millar, here are 5 essential ways to make sure your customers say WOW! not, “Is that it?”

Whose values are we talking about? 

Values are the things that drive our lives. Values determine our behaviour; they are the lens through which we measure the behaviour of others. Your values as a business owner are unique to you, and its likely they are the values you will try – even subconsciously – to have flow through your business. But some of the values that are useful, often necessary, for a business are not the ones your customers put at the top of their list. You may focus on efficiency – which sounds like a good starting point. But if efficiency to you means getting the most customer service calls handled in an hour, chances are you’re missing the point  that the customer wants her issue resolved in that one call. Their value of ‘solve my problem fast, because I’m worrying, busy/upset’ needs to be the one at the top of your list. ‘Value proposition’ has been mistakenly thought of as applying to the business; it should come from clients.

What are your customers’ values? 

You need to know that, or you won’t be able to deliver to them in a way that makes them keep coming back and telling people about you. Maybe they want ‘cool’ more than ‘fast’; ‘beautiful’ more than ‘affordable’; ‘caring’ more than ‘efficient’. The only way to find out it to ask – and not on a feedback form. Hit the phones yourself; walk the floor; read (and reply to) the emails; send a handwritten note and gift with a delivery – and a reply-paid response card; give them your personal mobile (I do). 

Study the competition

What are your competitors, especially the ones you aspire to be, doing? Shop with them, use their service if you can. A big part of your marketing spend needs to be on this kind of research. 

Analyse your ‘failure demand’ 

When someone calls in for help, or returns a product, your business has to respond. When the issue isn’t solved and the customer has to call in again, or send back or whatever, that’s called failure demand. Find it and it will tell you almost everything you need to know about what you need to improve to really deliver value to your customers.

Give your staff the power to make decisions to resolve issues

Timpson’s shoe repairs pioneered this. There’s a sign in every shop saying that all staff are able to make a decision to resolve an issue up to £100. Unless they break the heel off your Louboutins, that’ll cover most problems and make for very happy customers. Train staff to take problem solving seriously – to go out of their way to solve FOR the clients, not to simply pass them on. The sheer idea of ‘escalating’ a problem needs burying at sea. Teach your entire staff how to work together seamlessly to make your customers feel like they are in the saftest hands ever. 

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