Know your customers

By Johanne Bouchard Explore Big Sky Business Columnist

On April 1 we began the second quarter of the fiscal year. It’s an opportune time to check the pulse of your business, no matter how small it might be. One area deserving special attention during this evaluation should be how you’ve attended to, served and engaged with your customers to create a loyal relationship.

It’s wise to step back and reflect on how your business ranked according to customer expectations, and whether it delivered an optimal client experience. Even if your bottom line is showing all the signs of growth and success, never assume what your customers’ expectations are, or their satisfaction level. You need to reach out to them, and ideally more than once a year.

Businesses successfully grow when they attract customers best suited for their services and products, and retain this clientele. As owners and leaders, you benefit by ensuring that your employees understand your goals and objectives in serving these patrons, because they’re often the main interface with your customers.

Don’t assume anything about your customers’ experience, since anything could affect the reputation of your business. Here’s a list of questions to ask during your business evaluation:

Are you targeting the right people?
Defining the attributes of your ideal customers is key to determining who fits the right profile for what you market and sell. Genders, age groups, type of work they do, leisure activities and approach to making decisions about purchasing are a few examples.

It’s less costly to maintain relationships and get repeat purchases from an existing, satisfied customer than to gain new ones. You typically need to educate new customers about your products and services, while existing customers shouldn’t require the time to explain what you do and why. In the process of building your customer base, it’s important to identify the attributes of your optimal clientele.

Are you fostering loyalty?
Creating loyalty is as simple as taking the time to thank customers when you greet them or when they make a purchase, and it’s important to send personalized emails for special events. Everyone in your business needs to be clear about how you intend to build loyalty.

Do you continually track customer satisfaction?
Don’t assume anything about the level of customer service you deliver. Reach out to your customers and solicit their feedback, and ask the ones you know best how your business is being perceived and how you compare to the competition.

Do you empower and engage your customers as your advocates?
Don’t shy away from asking for referrals and testimonials to use in promotions when your customers feel comfortable supporting you.

Businesses are built with consumers in mind. Making it clear to your staff that awareness and response to customer satisfaction are priorities that will serve you well. Taking the time to reach out to satisfied customers and soliciting their feedback will promote loyalty and give you valuable insights. Contacting less-satisfied customers to learn their views can help you make educated business choices, and may convert some into repeat visitors.

In this era of Yelp and other online reviews, nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket at all times. Make sure these devices are an asset and not a liability, by keeping your customer-satisfaction game sharp!

Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech marketing executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. An avid skier, Bouchard and her husband have a second home in Big Sky. See more at johannebouchard.com.