I sent this brief note to a group of my close friends who are all small business owners because owning the voice of the customer is an area where I see lots of businesses fail. And I wanted to make sure my friends kept focused on this critical aspect of business success.
A few days ago, I talked to one of my clients, a brilliant young man (it hurts me to say that since I believe he’s in his late 30s) who runs a great little company out in California. Things are going very well for his firm, he has a lot of business booked, and he felt pretty secure.
So I decided to ask him one of my “secret weapon” questions:
In terms of the business, what keeps you up at night?
What are the top two or three things that worry you?
He answered that the first one was compensation, and he was concerned about whether or not his business had done an adequate job of building a fair and equitable compensation system for their top performers. He thought a little longer and said the second issue was hiring talent. Their firm was growing fast; he needed to employ super-talented people for his team that could hit the ground quickly and start working with clients immediately. After a little more deliberation, he said, “Those are the only two things that keep me up at night right now.” I told him that those are both important, but he had missed the absolute most crucial thing that should be keeping him—and every single business owner in the world—up at night.
The single most important thing to worry about is:
- Are your customers enthralled with the products and services you provide to them?
- Do they love your business?
- Are they crazy about what you sell them?
- Do they truly enjoy interacting with your employees?
- What do your customers honestly think about your firm right now?
These questions hit him like a ton of bricks. He was very apologetic, saying he should’ve thought of that. I assured him that very few people have ever answered that question the way I hoped they would. Most business people I know are so inwardly focused on their processes, systems, people, and internal issues, that they forget that the person who pays ALL the bills is the customer. You will eventually lose your business without happy, engaged, loyal, and fanatic customers.
So to my mind, the most important thing for you to focus on is owning the voice of the customer, getting as close to your customer as possible, and deeply understanding what their expectations are, what will make them happy, what will make them angry, what would make them give you more of their business, what would make them take their business away from you. And the ONLY way to do this is to ask them in 100 different ways and then listen attentively. They will tell you precisely what it takes to be successful because they are the ones that decide whether or not to GIVE you their business! They are the ONLY ones that can tell you what it takes to be successful in your business.
Yes, you need fantastic employees who are highly engaged, loyal, and motivated because that is the most critical driver of happy, loyal and engaged customers. And of course, you need quality products and services delivered at a reasonable price. That is a given. However, it is possible to have great people, great products, superb service, and fair prices and still go out of business because you do not have enough customers.
So my suggestion to you is that although you have lots of things to be concerned about in your business, and several of them likely keep you up at night. If there is anything that should stay at the forefront of your mind as the single most crucial thing to think about, worry about, fret about, be totally and completely obsessive about it is:
What are your customers saying about your business? That, my friends, is the $64,000,000 question!
If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.