For nearly a decade I’ve been jumping up and down at almost every seminar I teach shouting, “Whoever owns the voice of the customer – owns the marketplace.” Yet I am still absolutely flabbergasted by how few companies truly do even an average job of listening to the people who pay all the bills – their customers. Because I’ve built my entire career around making complex things simple, here are four very simple questions to ask as many of your customers as possible:
- What are the top THREE reasons you do business with our company?
If you ask lots and lots of your customers this question, and a clear pattern emerges, they have just told you your value proposition and given you incredible insight into how to build your brand. I will quickly use myself as an example; I asked several dozen of my top clients around the world specifically why they hired me and the answer came back exceedingly clear,
“John, we don’t know any other speaker who reads and studies as much as you do, you been reading more than 100 business books a year for 20 years, teaching for some of the top companies and business schools in the world and you are a top 100 business thought leader – you are a complete freak for learning about business. You’ve also been the owner or CEO of 10 companies, and was the CEO of a Rockefeller foundation at the age of 26, so this is not just about theory – you actually know what it’s like when you’re having a hard time making payroll. Lastly, is easy to see that you are deeply interested in and knowledgeable about business, every time you present you are focused and passionate about what you’re teaching– and because of those three things we always get a high ROI when we engage you.”
So my brand is: Research + Real-Life + Passion = ROI
I challenge you to do the same thing with your customers, ask a large number of your best customers specifically why they chose to do business with you and they will give you information that will be invaluable in your marketing and branding going forward.
- What do we do that frustrates you? What would you like us to start doing, stop doing or do differently in order to make it easier to do business with us?
Again, if you ask a significant number of your top clients this question there will likely be a clear pattern and then it’s very simple: immediately change the stuff they want you to change if at all possible. Be warned, if you ask this question and do not heed their advice it would be worse than never asking the question at all, so you have to be prepared to make the changes they suggest.
- What would we need to do to earn more/all of your business?
When you get quality feedback on this question you have essentially been given your growth strategy directly from your customers. It has been my experience in working with dozens of clients on this exercise that your top customers will give you the same three or four answers, which should then be turned into key strategic objectives. I cannot possibly think of a better way to grow your business then ask the people who are already spending money with you specifically what you would need to do to get them to give you more money. Yes, it is just that simple.
- What would we do that would cause you to fire us immediately?
Typically you get several very clear and straightforward answers here around breach of confidentiality, unprofessional behavior, substandard work, missed deadlines, scope creep and things of that nature. Once you collect these answers make a list of the pattern and then make sure that everyone in your business understands that they must never do any of these things!
You can change the questions around a little in order to match your industry and your customers, but at the end of the day if you’ll just pick up the phone and call a handful of your best customers and ask them questions like the ones above, you will be overwhelmed by the quality and value of the answers you get and how significantly this information can impact your business. I know this suggestion is so obvious and simple as to almost be offensive, but I can also tell you that less than 10% of businesses ever do this exercise. So get on the phone or send out a survey and let me know how things turn out for you – I very much look forward to your feedback!