"There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." This quote, spoken by Sam Walton in 1977, is a shockingly true analysis of where a company's success or failure truly lies.
Regardless of how useful our product or how convincing our pitch, our company's success is dependent on one thing: our customers.
This is especially relevant today because converting leads into customers isn't as easy as it once was. Years ago, poor service was common. Customer service wait times were long, products weren't always as promised, and customers had to settle with what they were given. Before the days when every imaginable ounce of information was readily available at the click of a button, customers relied largely on companies to provide data on their products, and they trusted them. Years ago when they wanted to understand the usefulness and application of a product, customers would simply call up the company selling the product to ask. This put a lot of power in the hands of the company who, at the time, was able to significantly influence the customer's initial impression and eventual decision to buy the product by rearranging the information towards their own self interest.
Customers now have access to limitless information. On their phones, desktops, wherever they go - they can get any information they need. This raises their understanding and expectations of what they want. They have a distinct set of needs, and countless options to get those needs met. If you're just hovering around status quo - you don't stand a chance of gaining customers.
Customers are different than they used to be. They don't just want a product. They want a relationship. If you want to win customers, you need to be available all the time, you need to listen, you need to connect and respond, you need to be appreciative and respectful of them.
Now, customers can access virtually every data point and insight on any product they are interested in. Better yet, they can read reviews and other analyses by third parties. The result? Customers are much more informed by the time they actually reach a sales person or a company they are looking to buy from. In fact, most customers have obtained 60% of the information about the product and already have a strong opinion about the product by the time they make contact with the company.
More information means more power. Customers have more power, more choices, and consequentially they have come to expect more from companies. While it used to be an option, stellar customer service is now a must and is often the determining factor that decides which brand a customer will choose. In order to deliver top-notch customer service, marketers and sales people are required to be more organized in order to stay cognizant and mindful of their customer relationships.
Delivering great customer service requires meticulous organization. Marketing automation, sales automation, and CRMs are more important than ever before for ensuring that you customers turn into renewal and referral business.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, once said "As a company, you need to get to the future first, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them when they arrive."
Customer service requires you to be proactive - not reactive. As a company, being able to predict and intercept potential issues is key for customer satisfaction. Knowing what your customers want before they even realize it is a powerful way to win relationships and deals with your potential clients.
Ultimately, if we want our businesses to grow then we need to take care of our customers. We need to proactively address our customers wants, concerns, and frustrations. We need to actively and efficiently follow up with prospective and existing customers, provide relevant insight, and always keep track of our last conversation. Nothing ruins a conversation like forgetting the previous one, and nothing ruins a sale like a damaged relationship. In 2016, our focus should be on proficiently growing relationships with clients through empathy, mindfulness, and appreciation.