4 Ways to Get Smarter About Customers

The average small business loses half its customers in three years. Don’t be average. Take a very close look at how your business acquires and retains good customers, and make sure each point of contact is a positive experience, for you and your clients.

To sharpen your focus on what customers want – and if you’re delivering on it – put your company under the microscope with these four analytical tools.

1.  Map the Customer Journey

No drawing skills necessary. The idea is to list each point a customer passes on the path to purchase and after—the “customer journey.” That could be viewing an ad, visiting a website, calling for an appointment, returning a purchase.  It might include points out of your control, such as a customer who checks with his social network or visits a reviews site before making the purchase. The journey will likely double back, too, not proceed straight ahead.

Take a good look at your “map” (or list) from the customer’s perspective. See needless steps or lack of support along the way? Points in the sales process where customers tend to drop off? Talk to staff and customers to map the journey (and the roadblocks).

Don’t think you have to analyze the whole journey at once. A sensible starting point is one stretch, such as just the process to book an appointment.

2.  Manage the Micro-moments

Researchers for Google came up with this notion: thanks to always-with-us mobile phones, we’re all living through a series of “micro-moments,” quick information intakes while going about our daily lives.

Some examples from Google: Someone who searches houses to buy on a real estate website while standing in line at the grocery store. Or a person who decides which brand of skin cream to buy after checking product reviews while standing in a drugstore aisle. Then there’s “showrooming” – looking up a price online in the store and insisting that the store match it.

How to respond?  Take a 24/7, 360-degree look at how your business would appear in these micro-moments on mobile phones.  Do you have a mobile-friendly website?  Do you monitor your reputation on reviews sites?  Do you watch competitor pricing? Do you buy Google or Facebook ads targeted to your neighborhood or service area?

3.  Identify the Moments of Truth

This approach says that any point in the customer journey, even a seemingly unimportant step, can turn into a Moment of Truth when the relationship between business and customer gets decided for all time.

Example: A customer walks into a store and asks a salesperson where to find an item.

  • Possible answer #1: “Oh, I think it’s in the back somewhere.”
  • Possible answer #2: “In the back on aisle 10. Let me take you there right now.”

Either way, a Moment of Truth that sets a lasting impression. Richard Normann, the Swedish business professor who developed the concept, figured that it takes 12 good moments to counter the effect of one bad moment of customer service.

You can’t anticipate every meaningful moment, but you can train your staff on principles and attitudes toward customers that should see them through whatever moments arise—and drill them on how to handle complaints or other emotional situations that can escalate.

4.  Just Ask Them

To really understand the Voice of the Customer – well, just listen to what the customer has to say.  You can ask customers informally (say at the end of a service, “How was my work today?”) or hand out paper forms or email an online survey (free services like SurveyMonkey make that easy.)  Especially look to survey your best, most loyal customers to understand their needs; keeping them happy yields the biggest payoff.

Some key points to remember about surveys:

  • They should be short. Don’t expect customers to engage for more than a few minutes.
  • They should be simple in concept: Ask clients to rate your business in general and for specific services either based on their satisfaction level or their likeliness to recommend to a friend or likeliness to return.
  • Let clients know the survey is anonymous.
  • Stay neutral—don’t encourage them to answer the questions in the positive.
  • It’s not the Gallup Poll. Take the survey as clues toward improvement, based on what some customers think, not as an up or down vote on your business.