Saturday 23 February 2013

Building Conversations and Building Businesses

Japan, a Happy Customer Country
Do you talk to your customers?

I mean really talk. Get to know them, know their problems and why they do stuff and how they do it?  

I know it sounds little un-business like let's say, we are here to do business and business only it should be. Customers are customers and should be treated as such and not friends as the conventional wisdom goes. Or let's say as the conventional custom goes. We take money, we give product end of our relation.

Yes, end of the relation indeed. Next time they get a better rate or say a faster delivery time or even say something that is nearby they will go there, and you will be out again, hunting for a new customer. With the Internet, competition is at its peak now so getting new customers is also like spending a lot of time and money to do that.

So, I suggest not only making customers, but also making friends should be a priority for all businesses. Understand them, cater to them and most of all listen to them. I know listening can be a problem, but that is something that you need to cultivate and work on. It's time to start building bridges and get to know your customers.

Building Bonds:
There is a lot to learn from successful corner stores. Yes, the friendly neighbourhood corner store who knows everyone in the neighbourhood by their first name. The store owner knows what the customer does for a living and even knows about the customer's family and children and what they do. They also know the customer buying preferences. It's not only a good habit but also, it's good for business.

Business is not only about Investments, Stocks, Bonds, Management, Sales, Balance Sheet, Meetings etc. Yes, they are one aspect of business. But business is also about knowing your customers and building relations with them. It's one of the most important aspects for growing your business and it's as important as the employee and employer relation. In fact, employer, employee, and customers can't exist independent of each other and are correlated.

So, the idea is not only to sell but also to make friends and build long-lasting relations with them. Just like any other relation you must give them space and scope to confide in you about their problems regarding a particular service sector or a product. You must listen to your customers primarily like any other relation. When you get to know of the problem you need to offer a solution to it and solve it like a friend and not just a businessman trying to make a large profit from a customer. Making a large profit is the quickest way to lose a customer. Focus on customer satisfaction instead if you want a returning customer. Be their friend, interact with them and not only about your products and business, but also about issues that they are concerned with.

I have seen in some social sites, when this unfortunate Nirbhaya rape incident shook India last December, and the whole nation was fuming, some entrepreneurs were happily posting updates about their products and business which no one cared about at that heated moment. Everyone was emotional and screaming about that incident back then. What these overzealous entrepreneurs managed to do was alienate themselves from the national sentiment that was running sky high at that moment. That was a time to be human and connect with people mix with them and raise a voice regarding that issue showing that they cared instead of keeping on posting commercial status updates. Effectively they put forward a very self-centered image of themself in the social media. I guess to connect with customers we have to be human first and then an entrepreneur or a businessperson. Be Human first then an entrepreneur.

Knowing their Pain Points:
It's vital to know a customer's pain points. Their troubles and their grievances as per to any service sector or any product. What do they complain about mainly? Is it bad service? Is it expense? Is it lack of features? To know the pain points, the only way to do that is listen to them and interact with them. Once you know their pain points you need to incorporate in your service or product a feature that takes care of that pain point and makes the customer super happy. And super satisfied customers are customers for life.

Giving them Quality and Friendly Service:
I was watching this documentary, "A Life in Japan" where the interviewees were talking about how impressed they were with the quality of service the Japanese businesses give to their customers. We all know how meticulous the Japanese are in executing projects and products and to what length they go to achieve that perfection. Their prime concern is to make the customer happy and build relations. As a result, they have built an eco-system where they have an almost 100% pool of satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are happy customers and happy customers mean recurring business.

The country I have grown up in, India, here it is just the opposite. Here, we have an eco-system of 100% unhappy customers. Why is it so? It is because we are focusing more on attracting new customers and not giving a satisfactory service to the existing ones and losing them eventually. Here, we are taking customers for granted. Especially in New Delhi customers are mistreated majorly by the businesses I have observed. That is a very foolish and narrow-minded way to try to grow a business. So here every customer is complaining, as everyone has a reason to be unhappy about. Customers are just not getting a quality service, even after paying a hefty amount of money. Here, people are too focused on ripping the money and overlooking the service quality. This way one can't grow beyond a certain point. Idea is to go the Japanese way and make 100% satisfied customers and don't sleep till we have achieved that level of perfection.

Building Trust:
We work in a contract-based scenario where the customer must pay a certain amount in advance for us to start work with. As we gradually work our way towards completion the client clears the rest of the payment. So, in this case goodwill and trust is a major issue for customers to trust us. Not only us, for every business building customer trust must be a primary goal. To build trust one needs to have a clean slate. A tainted company or a company which is known for its misdeeds can never build a recurring customer base. Yes, I understand that competition can sometimes taint your business, but in that case clear communication again comes to the forefront to win back the customers. If you are at fault, admit the fault and work on the problem. Companies tend to suppress information, mislead the public in such cases, and launch expensive misleading PR campaigns. They miss out that to build trust first one must admit the mistake then work to better the situation.
Grow form Referrals

Grow from Referrals:
I saw something remarkably interesting on Facebook today. A lady did a status update tagging a person who repaired her garage door recommending his work to over 300 people I am sure she has in her friends list. The question is why did she do it? She did it because she is overjoyed with his service. Will her friends use his service? Yes! Now she is not the only one who did that. I am sure you must have noticed people sharing songs and images with friends. They do that because they want to share happiness, laughter and sometimes issues that they feel strongly about. Effectively they are willingly referring works of other people without being urged to do so by the original content creator. So, you make a happy customer, an incredibly happy customer, and that person is bound to talk about your service/product on the social sites. Have you not seen "Ate a fabulous dinner in a so and so restaurant", "Had a nice time in so and so place", yes, they are recommending these places as they are sharing satisfaction and related happiness. So, learn to keep customers happy and grow from customers they refer to your business.

Talk to your customers, listen to them, learn about their grievances, solve their problems, give them quality service, and make them super happy. Your business is bound to grow.


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