Archive for category customer loyalty

The biggest challenges Businesses face today

What are the biggest challenges businesses face today, was the question posed to members of the Business Exposure Group at a recent meeting, and below are the 10 most pressing concerns.

According to the CBI change is the new normal.

Growing revenue is the top challenge for businesses employing 5-30 employees.  Hiring employees is the biggest challenge for businesses with 30-50 employees and government regulations becomes the biggest issue for business with 50 or more employees.

What are the 10 big challenges for SME’s.

  • Uncertainty about customer trends – does this lead to short term focus, and does it make you feel vulnerable?
  • Financial Management – cash flow. Larger customers are imposing long payment terms, so how are you addressing this?
  • Monitoring performance – are KPI’s as good as they sound even though they compare historical information or are there better ways.
  • Recruiting the right talent – employee working flexibility is important to retain good staff, but increasingly stress in the workplace is a real challenge in small businesses when staff have to be able to multi-task.
  • Technology – it should be outsourced to reduce demand on administrators, but is investment in technology an asset or a handicap. Distinguishing which technology will attain the highest return in terms of time and investment is a problem.  The big issue is, is the IT fit for purpose.
  • Information overload. There are now big digital challenges for meeting the expectations of customers, together with finding and keeping people who can digitally transform a company that delivers a bespoke customer experience.
  • Customer Service – what is the right level, are customers’ expectations too high? Managing the relationship is key
  • Maintaining reputation – there is genuine concern about reputation management with easy access to social media and particular concern about cyber security disrupting the day to day functionality of the business.
  • Knowing when to embrace change is a worry and knowing how to balance quality with growth. Businesses are stocking less and relying on a lean supply chains, but is this clever or does it open up crippling disruptions.
  • Regulations and compliance are becoming more and more demanding of staff time

Everyone was in agreement that running a business is getting harder and is forever challenging, but all were motivated about the challenges and were ready to face them head on.

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Delivering Innovative Customer Experiences

To create distinctive customer experiences, businesses need to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation thinking in six key areas.

Some companies are moving fast to adapt, applying a range of approaches to improve customer experiences.  A great experience that delights customers and earns their loyalty is needed. Improving a customer experience from merely average to something that wows the customer can lead to a 30/50% increase in measures such as likelihood to renew or to buy another product.

Here are six areas discussed at a recent Business Exposure Group meeting.

  1. Measure customer behaviour and spend time with customers to understand them 

Companies need to empathize with customers when they experience difficulties and obstacles.

This means embracing new techniques for understanding customer journeys.  Such approaches allow companies to uncover new insights that allow them to design and deliver truly great customer experiences.

One of our Business Exposure Group members is an insurance broker specialising in the farming community. He was developing a new product and took time out to observe the daily activities of farmers.

He learnt that farmers are pressed for time but also very tech savvy, relying heavily on PCs and mobile devices in their daily activities. He had originally planned to market his new product through traditional channels, but lessons learned from an observation trip led him to create a digital solution, which allowed farmers to gather information and buy policies online at night and at weekends.

  1. Designing the complete customer experience

Design is not about making devices and screens look pretty. True customer-experience design involves each interaction customers have with your company. Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

To design a customer journey, companies must enlist everyone who has an impact on any part of a customer’s journey, not just people with the word “design” in their title—in particular operations and IT. 

A Business Exposure Group member has a marketing agency whose client specialises in visitor attractions. After a 12 month effort to root out pain points in the experience of visitors to theme parks, their clients introduced wrist bands. These brightly coloured wristbands allow visitors to board rides, pay for meals and gifts. More important, the bands and the technology behind them—which is in every part of the attraction—allow visitors to select exactly what they want to see and do in advance. That has helped turn a day out from a series of highlight attractions interrupted by waiting in line to a smooth end-to-end experience.

  1. Completely rethink the customer experience

The focus is addressing customer needs, not improving a process. Many of our members bring in people who are not normally involved in the business to encourage fresh thinking.  Looking at the best experiences employed in other industries can  be extremely enlightening.

  1. Become an agile organisation

Managers responsible for developing new offerings need the authority to make decisions quickly and to hold staff accountable. 

One of the Business Exposure Group members who has an IT software company shifted entirely to cloud technologies, which allowed new software developed by their team to go live on the clients websites in a matter of seconds.  By making the whole organisation agile, the IT company dramatically reduced time to market for their clients products and services. 

  1. From delivering a product to constant tweaking

Many businesses figure out what new product or service offering they want to create for customers and then launch pilots.

It’s impossible to know in advance how an experience will be embraced by customers. It’s better to launch sooner with fewer features and a simpler interface and learn what works, based on real customer input. 

Using this approach, one of the Business Exposure Group members was able to build a new tablet-based app in just 6 weeks.  It then tweaked new versions based on user feedback, improving the process.  After these tweaks, the app was scaled across new markets and more products within the company’s range.

  1. Working together spontaneously 

Companies need to push their people to move beyond traditional roles and work together to reinvent customer journeys.  Improvements  come from having motivated, empowered frontline employees driven by clear purpose.

Many of our members are working hard to reinvent their customers’ journeys. The ones that win will be those that push the boundaries and adopt new practices.

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The Importance of a Sales Strategy

Sales functions are struggling in the internet led world.  Approaches that have worked for decades are no longer effective and many businesses have seen their digital investments fail to deliver expected results.

The importance of a sales strategy was discussed at a recent meeting of the Business Exposure Group and it led to a lively discussion with lots of questions being posed.

Do you have a sales strategy? – You can’t sell here and there, or pick up the phone when you have a spare minute.  Strategy is about making choices, about where we play and where we don’t.  Unless you have a solid strategy you are essentially flying blind.

Do you understand the sales process? – It’s not about money, you need to focus on the positive impact the product or service has on your customer.  Forget about hitting the numbers, make sure the right message gets through.

Your CRM system maybe hurting your cause.  Seeing the top 3 products your customer is interested in is far better than looking at the customer history.  Will your customer benefit from doing business with you rather than your competitor?  Explain to them why you are the best, why your product/service is better and try to create a bond so they will stay loyal.

Do you find yourself trying to get business without understanding the specific growth opportunities? – Define your ideal customer, know your USP, analyse your territory, know your competition and have realistic sales expectations.

Many companies think they have a sales strategy but they don’t.

One of our members got it very wrong.  He has a machine tool business selling to the automotive trade and he decided he wanted to break into the medical market where there was more business at higher profits.  The strategy was to bring in a new line for the medical industry.  He revamped the website, had new brochures printed and then nothing happened.  They hadn’t worked out how they were going to be accepted into the medical market, how they would train staff and what exactly they were selling, who to, which companies, etc.

One of our other members got it right.  They are an accountancy practice who wanted to target independent haulage contractors for business.  They found it was no good expecting hauliers to come into the office during the day as they were busy working.  The company defined a sales strategy offering home visits accounts preparation for hauliers and they now have 420 new clients from that niche industry sector.

How much time should you spend on planning a sales strategy? You need to consider some of the following points

How do you move from being pretty good to very good at generating sales growth

  • Take time to analyse problems then work out what your strategy needs to address
  • Change your mind-set to ensure you are better than your competitors
  • Ensure you are persuasive, but not arrogant or pushy
  • Always talk to the decision maker and build a relationship, get in early
  • Create a sense of urgency for their order, what can you offer them as an incentive to commit early

Management Consultants McKinseys have researched the SME market place and concluded the top 5 strategies for SME businesses:

1          Find growth where your competitors could not – practice micro segmentation of the market and find a pond where no one is fishing

2          Sell the way customers want to buy – focus on prospects for which you have something original to offer

3          Free up your sales people to sell – get rid of excess admin

4          Focus on developing staff

5          Expect exceptional performance – set stretching targets

Members who attended the Business Exposure Group Meeting left feeling energised and with lots of thoughts to focus on.

 

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Customer Satisfaction – What state of mind do customers have of your business?

In modern business there’s increased competition, crowded markets, lesser product differentiation and flatter sales.

So measuring customer satisfaction is key. It reportedly costs five to eight times as much to get a new customer than to hold onto new ones.

So why not operate a measurement system for customer satisfaction and find out what your customers expect from you?

Firstly, don’t just watch sales volumes or rely on a sales rep determining your customer’s state of mind. Also, don’t just track the frequency of complaints or look at ageing debt.

Implement a survey via mail, e-mail, or over the phone and rate experiences on a weighted scale (1 out of 5 etc.). Ensure to repeat this process to see how your customers experience changes over time.

Consider these factors:

  • Who is responsible for implementing a system – sales and marketing.
  • Management must champion the initiative.
  • Compare your own customer satisfaction with your competitors.
  • Engage all employees.
  • Inform your customers about the changes made due to the survey. Its  important to communicate.

Satisfaction can be based on:-

  • Quality
  • Business relationship
  • Price
  • The Service and Product meeting or exceeding customer expectations

Did you know? A 5% increase in loyalty can increase profit by more than 25%.

A very satisfied customer is six times more likely to be loyal than a satisfied customer.

Only 4% of dissatisfied customers actually bother to complain, and on average that same dissatisfied customer is likely to tell nine other people about it.

In comparison, satisfied customers will tell five other people on average about the good treatment they received.

You also need to consider the following:

  • Are your products less than advertised?
  • Are employees making promises they can’t keep?
  • Do you know why customers prefer another brand over yours?
  • Do you get customers to compare and contrast?
  • What is the technology expectation? – E.G. Mobile phones are constantly evolving.
  • Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey on a regular basis and look for:
  •    Overall satisfaction: How satisfied are you with ……
  •     Loyalty Measure: Would you recommend us to…
  •     Intention to repurchase: Do you intend to repurchase…

Here are 6 thoughts for putting together a customer satisfaction programme:

  1. Who should be interviewed? The end user, the manager or the directors or all?
  2. What should be measured? Put yourself in the customers mind-set – what do they consider important?
  3. How should the interview be carried out?
  4. How should satisfaction be measured?
  5. What should the measurement mean?
  6. How to use the survey to the greatest effect?

It’s debatable whether these should be anonymous or not.

Another strategy is to identify the best company in your sector and set your benchmark against them.

There are links between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction as happy employee’s work harder, providing greater customer satisfaction.

If a survey is right for your business, then your customer will in-turn expect positive changes to come from it. Most surveys just sit gathering dust. Be sure to communicate quick wins. The newsletter can be a good starting point and turn your customers into very satisfied customers.

This article was taken from a discussion of the Business Exposure Group.

If you are a Director or business owner and would like to attend one of their informative round-table discussions, please contact philipdrazen@bxgroup.co.uk

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Are you building business relationships using social media?

It’s a myth among web professionals that every organisation is capitalising on the benefits of social media. In fact, 94% of small business owners say they do not use it because their customers do not use it.

The advantages of using social media in business are well-documented but it needs to be done properly if it’s to have a positive effect as half-hearted attempts will achieve little.

To make social media work for your business you need to have a plan. If you do not have a strategy and time to manage social media, it’s a pointless exercise.

As a good starting point, it’s advisable to simply ‘lurk’ and monitor what other people are doing on the social media networks before trying to work out how it can help you.  Spend some time on either Linkedin, Twitter or facebook and get to understand how others are behaving.

This gives you specific marketing intelligence and allows you to understand how to play the different media.

You cannot set up a social media strategy and think customers will just arrive on your doorstep. You need to establish a two-way communication and ask your followers/customers for feedback, as well as respond to their questions.

Businesses need to be personable and build relationships with customers through social media. We need to be perceived as industry experts and when we do comment we need to provide relevant information.

Too many people have just jumped on the social media bandwagon because people are talking about it. It requires considerable work related to engagement and understanding about what you’re trying to achieve and how to send an appropriate message into the market.

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Do you understand the new rules of marketing?

The world of marketing is changing rapidly and a ‘one size fits all’ policy has no place in today’s business environment.

Following the current recession, businesses need to appeal more to the nervous buyer and provide reassurance of their value and credibility. Testimonials, reviews and news of the awards we have won can all help to portray reliability and establish trust which will ensure those people in the mood for buying feel comfortable with you.

It’s much more cost-effective to market your business to the people you already know and your current client base can be the key to future referrals, which is currently big business.

Direct marketing techniques are increasing as a result of the economic climate, possibly for pricing tactics. Businesses are reducing the thresholds for discounts and pricing smaller packs more aggressively.

The current M&S ‘dine in for £10’ deal is a great example of clever marketing, which reflects the economic hardships most families find themselves in.

It’s not so much that £10 is cheap for a meal for two it’s the fact that it’s good value in comparison to a meal out. It’s all about putting the right message across and how to get that message to your customers.

Customers look to brands to reassure them when times are tough.

Gimmicks have no place in a recession. It’s all about reliability, durability and safety.

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What makes a successful business?

Successful businesses are built upon three key components: the ability to be flexible (researching the marketplace to ensure the product or service continues to satisfy customers), the ability to achieve high levels of customer retention and the ability to employ the best people for the job.

In today’s economic climate, businesses have two options: sticking to their guns and believing in the value of their product to achieve success or giving into fear and remaining static.

Companies who constantly complain about being unable to get the appropriate staff and consider the competition to be stronger, face the danger of becoming stuck in a rut. Many become trapped in the mindset of reducing prices to keep hold of the customers they already have and consistently try and customise products to retain them.

Successful businesses, however, have already researched the market and have done their homework. They know exactly the merits of their product and stick with it. Many actually raise prices because they have already established what their customers like.

Customers want to buy ‘the experience’ and they are prepared to pay the price. The challenge for the business is to keep moving forward and delighting their customers to retain their loyalty.

Contrary to popular belief, businesses which are the first in the marketplace with their particular service or product are riskier ventures. The most successful businesses copy what everyone else is doing because it’s a tried and tested model.

Businesses which are second or third to arrive in that particular sector are usually more successful.

Are businesses successful because of the people they employ or the systems they have in place?

Many entrepreneurs believe that people are the key to success. However, the people you think are the best people for the job might not be. Long-serving employees are very loyal but can be very resistant to change and like the thought of a comfortable working environment.

They are not always the best option when it comes to driving your business forward and gaining that ‘edge’.

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