Whether you’re a new startup or an established business, your customers’ satisfaction should be a part of just about every corporate decision made. After all, without good customer connection you don’t have a business. They are, and always should be, the foundation behind any new product or service put into motion.
Unfortunately, owners can sometimes get busy or sidetracked, and lose sight of their customer connection. If you’re not getting feedback, then how do you know you’re still hitting the mark?
Use A Proper Service Agreement
One of the most effective tools to implement in your operation is a Services Agreement. Without it, there will be (at times) a disparity between your intention and the client’s expectations. Over promising and under delivering is one of the biggest legal errors made by small businesses – but it’s easily avoided with this simple customer contract in place.
Misunderstandings from verbal assurances or advertised guarantees can lead to claims of fraud and resulting lawsuits – whether won or not – could harm your reputation, and at the very least, your client relationship. Of course, you should consult with a business attorney and have them assist with drawing up a standard Services Agreement, in order to protect your company’s interests.
Minimum details should include the names of all parties, definitive services or products offered, an outline of the fees (as well as penalties and overages), and the method and frequency of payment. You’ll also want to include confidentiality and intellectual property disclosures, and a termination clause allowing reasonable exit from the agreement by either party.
Look Beyond Your Revenues
Sales can, of course, be one way to evaluate your success – but it isn’t the only one. Things can change on a dime. Competitors can come out of nowhere, and if your company doesn’t have a real connection, your customers can just take a left turn and follow the new guy. Why wouldn’t they?
This is why you have to bond with the people you’ve worked so hard to find in the first place. Of course, some consumers are always going to shop for the bargains, because price is their bottom line. But most buyers are loyal to a business they feel understands them, whether or not you charge a little more than someone else.
The significance of the way you treat your customers cannot be overlooked. If they feel taken advantage of, it could mean the death knoll for your venture. A good example of this is the way that Royal Bank of Scotland’s reputation lost substantial ground when they got a bit too big for their boots. And now, Britain’s biggest business lender, RBS, is going back to the drawing board, re-training all 3,500 relationship managers in culture and behaviour (as well as niche specialisation) in an effort to win back their SME customers.
Don’t Become Invisible
Sometimes an owner feels relieved when they can remain inconspicuous; as in no news is good news. The very fact that you would react this way should be a sign that you’re too buried in the work to see what’s right in front of you. Keep in mind, if you lose the passion that got you started, there’s no way it’s not going to affect your customers.
One way to lose this defeating attitude is to get back out in front of your business. Mix and mingle, interact with the community and find out what’s important to them, speak at local functions, become a mentor and share your knowledge and passion with others. Put yourself out there as a subject matter expert with the local media, post an informative piece on Quora.com and answer questions in your field of expertise.
Once you’ve rubbed elbows with your local populace, give some real thought to what they’ve shared with you. What gets them excited about places they patronise (whether it’s a favorite café or the best beauty salon they’ve ever found)? Are there other things that matter to them – and, if so, what are they? As they say, put yourself in their shoes, and then walk a mile. Chances are, you’ll come away from the experience with a much different perspective.