Why actual customer conversations are so important to growing a business
Chances are, you started your business because you recognized a need in the market – something that customers want that you could provide. In the beginning, you understood that particular customer problem well, and you built the business around solving it. You may not have got it quite right at the start, but you iterated, and eventually hit on something customers loved.
But then the business grew. And you needed to focus on building the team, managing the team, managing the accounts, promoting the business, and solving the next problem that each stage of growth presents. And most likely, you stopped talking directly to customers.
It happens to all of us, but without having regular conversations with customers, it’s very hard to truly keep your finger on the pulse. You’re probably missing out on many insights that could improve your business and/or identify problems that you may not have noticed.
Why you need to have conversations with customers
Customers are the reason your business exists. Hopefully, they’re part of the “why” behind your business, but at the very least, they fund your operations. Some of the reasons and benefits to have more conversations with customers include…
1) Customer conversations improve your marketing
By talking to new customers, you can better understand what they were looking for and what problem they were trying to address before they came to you. You can find out where they were looking for a solution and perhaps identify new marketing channels.
You can also get insights about which of your existing channels are influencing the market. Of course you can also use tracking tools for this, but it’s not perfect information. Perhaps your customers are seeing your advertisements in magazines and then clicking through online advertisements later. Often, it’s a combination of marketing channels that works.
Customer conversations can also teach you about the language your customers use to describe your product or service and the problem it solves. Using exact phrases that customers tend to use in your copywriting has been shown to increase the effectiveness of your marketing.
2) Customer conversations identify product improvement opportunities
Having discussions with your existing customers is a great way to get insights into how your product or service can be improved. Sometimes you might have a list of new requests and think you’ll do those first, but until you speak to a good cross-section of customers, you won’t know whether those are really the highest priority changes.
Talking to customers can tell you that there’s a problem with one of your team members, or that you need to provide training in a certain area. They can lead to a realization that you need to provide more communication about a certain thing to your customers. (Maybe your product already does something great but nobody knows about it!)
These discussions can also tell you what customers would like to see changed about your actual product or service. Allow customers to give you their ideas, but then you can also tell them about some of the new features you’re thinking of, and use their input to help you prioritize those.
Developing a better product or service through customer conversations is a great way to remain competitive. Have a set of questions to ask customers as a guide for these conversations.
3) Customer conversations lead to happier customers
When customers feel that you’re interested in them and listening to their feedback, it almost immediately increases their satisfaction with your business. It makes them more likely to tell you about any problems they might have, so you have a chance to rectify things if they are about to churn.
And, best of all, because these customers feel like they have a personal relationship with you (and they do!), it also makes them far more likely to refer you to their networks. So customer conversations are actually a great way to grow your business too.
4) Customer conversations can lead to case studies, testimonials, and reviews
Of course, when you speak to customers that are already very satisfied with your service, it’s a great opportunity to ask them for a testimonial or case study (here are some steps to collect customer testimonials).
Alternatively, if customer reviews are important in your industry, you can ask your customer to leave a review on the platform of your choice. Not everyone will, but if you speak to enough people and explain how reviews help your business, a proportion of them will be prepared to write a review.
5) Use the power of customer conversations to motivate yourself and your team
When you speak directly to customers, you’ll often find yourself re-energized and motivated to make your business even better. You’ll reconnect with the purpose of the business and re-engage with your vision.
You can also use the insights and specifics of your conversations to boost morale within your teams. This is especially important for team members that are not usually in contact with customers. Simply write a company-wide message to pass on some great things that a customer has said about the business. It’s also great if you can talk about this feedback in meetings.
Find a way to do this regularly and you’ll soon see that employee morale increases – which of course, tends to lead to further improvements in customer satisfaction.
Customer conversations are rarely urgent, but are always important
Running a business is hard and there are always a million things pulling you in different directions. Many of them seem urgent and therefore it’s easy to focus on those and let the non-urgent but important things slip to the bottom of our list.
Don’t let that happen. As Stephen Covey taught us in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, doing the non-urgent, but important things first, is what will really move the needle. He calls it “putting first things, first” and it comes down to prioritization and scheduling. Create a daily action list and make it a priority to have at least 3 customer conversations per week.
Having regular conversations with customers is not complicated and once you get into the habit, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t started earlier. Use an appointment setting tool like Bookafy and send customers an email asking them to set up a 15 minute meeting to discuss your services and get their input on how you can improve. Send out a batch each week and set yourself a target of at least a few conversations a week.