Time for a Customersâ€™ Audit? (Happy Get to Know Your Customers Day!)
Apr 14, 2021
Most American adults know April 15 as “tax day.” It’s that time of year when the IRS really wants to know its “customers.” With that in mind, as a business owner, do you really know who your customers are, and what makes them tick?
It seems that too many business operators today only assume that they know. That said, today might be a wonderful time to do a “customers’ audit.” We’re not talking in the financial sense. Take advantage of national Get to Know Your Customers Day on April 15) by taking a deep, honest look at the people who help make your business what it is.
Are your customers important enough to spend at least one day thinking about how to better serve them?
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo via Pexels
Get to Know Your Customers Day: History
It’s unclear who or what started Get to Know Your Customers Day, or precisely when it kicked off. Today it’s a day for businesses to remember to reach out to customers, clients or patrons, to learn more about them, or to make them feel special.
Someone carefully thought this out, too, evidenced by the fact that it is observed 4 times a year (instead of the usual single instance for most commemorative days): the 3rd Thursday at the start of each quarter, in January, April, July, and October.
Many business-trend experts link the start of the day with the rise in big-box retail stores, and, especially, e-commerce. The so-called brick-and-mortar companies we were used to for so many years rather suddenly came under attack by new business models and technology.
In short, the older, established businesses had to discover new ways to compete. What many learned is, open communication with your customers can pay dividends. It was like, after all that time, Who knew? Basically, the customer relationship became a priority, not just a second thought.
In nurturing this, successful businesses adjusted their operations according to the feedback they carefully considered, and boosted customer loyalty in the process.
Photo by Ann H via Pexels
Engaged-Customer Data Doesn’t Lie
Any number of survey results will indicate how important it is for businesses to ask for, and respond to, feedback from customers. About 3 of every 4 consumers nationally had favorable impressions of businesses that did so, compared against those that ignored customers.
Seems like common sense, right?
Not necessarily. Ask any politician who relied on gut instinct, or a rather arrogant view that he or she “knows” what constituents want. Most become un-elected. Savvy politicians understand the real value of true data -- e.g. polling -- and are unafraid to shift with changing voter priorities.
Businesses can (and most likely should) do the same. First off, most businesses already have data from customers -- they indicate their desires with the products or services they purchase. If lemon cakes are flying off the shelves, don’t just focus on constantly re-stocking lemon cakes. Ask yourself (or better yet, ask your own customers), why?
Secondly, most everyone knows the adage about never assuming, so we won’t repeat it here. Nevertheless, making assumptions that you absolutely know your customers is a dangerous position to take for folks who run businesses. Prove assumptions with data before pursuing.
Main Street Replaced by Main Site
In the old days, local businesses on Main Street (or Market Street, or whatever the commercial strip is called in your town; in Manchester, it’s probably Elm Street) were owned and operated by local folks. They often knew your name when you walked in, and even what you’d probably buy. Think the character Norm from the television series “Cheers.”
If you walked in, they saw you, and then suddenly realized they were low or out of stock on an item they knew you’d want, they would go out of their way to explain or even go get it for you no matter what. Sam the bartender would run down the street to get Norm a cold beer. There was a lot of personal interaction.
Nowadays too many business operators are concerned with search engines and their algorithms. That’s fine and dandy for some businesses, if all they want to do is pack and ship as many gizmos as possible.
But does that result in returning customers, which are absolutely vital for so many businesses to grow? Probably not. There’s no guarantee an automated-only e-commerce platform will pop in front of that same buyer’s eyes with the next online search. Another business could out-SEO you by then. And that customer may never return.
Not so with customers you engage with directly. They remember little gestures to let them know they are special -- including asking them for their opinions.
Learn When to Pivot
Photo by cottonbro via Pexels
These Get to Know Your Customers Days may carry even bigger significance today, as the pandemic response has forced many businesses to “pivot,” or change direction according to the demands and needs of those who buy from them.
Consumers can be fickle, and ever-increasingly impatient. When the pandemic lockdowns hit at the end of the first quarter of 2020, gaming establishments were very concerned. Eventually the public, being stuck inside their homes for weeks and months on end, were also. They wanted to get out again, and the casinos desperately wanted them back.
Since 2002, James Swanson has operated Screaming Images, a graphic design and manufacturing firm specializing in very large displays like those you see in stadiums or festivals, or wrapped onto the sides of very large buildings (think resort hotels). Well, in the first half of 2020 it was precisely those venues that were shut down for the foreseeable future due to the novel coronavirus threat.
Swanson was in a bind, especially concerned with the well-being of his dedicated employees. So he moved to brainstorm with casino operators in Las Vegas where Screaming Images is headquartered, and listened to them along with what government health officials were recommending.
The end result was thin, see-through polycarbonate barrier sheets that Screaming Images was able to deliver quickly, starting with the casinos then spreading to commercial vehicles and offices, too. Basically, large “sneeze guards” between casino players and dealers.
This was long before “transaction barriers” at pay counters at supermarkets and retail outlets became the norm. Screaming Images listened, and ultimately made lemonade from the lemons the virus presented.
Shorter Attention Spans, Even Shorter on Patience
Like it or not, the length of Americans’ attention spans has shortened considerably, along with their patience. Everything now is hurry-hurry, all about convenience and getting things fast.
Those that didn’t grasp this early -- e.g. Kodak with digital cameras, and Blockbuster with streaming video services -- paid the price.
Do you really know your customers? Are you certain that your business is positioned the best way possible not only to survive, but maybe to thrive and grow?
Very often, the people best situated to inform you of coming trends are your own customers. But you will never know if you don’t ask.
Engaging your customers does not have to be hard, and even if the results help little, just the action of communicating with your customers is a solid public relations move. Why do you think the term “transparency” is so big in political debates nowadays? Because people want to feel like they are part of the process, that they are contributing.
That they are heard.
Being a politician, and remaining one, is about marketing. It’s just that the thing being marketed is a person and name, not just a gizmo. If the market shifts in one direction but that product (the politician) remains stagnant, well eventually that elected official gets fired by voters.
The same can be true today in any business in any industry.
Take a moment today to think deeply whether you are fully aware of what your customers need, want, or desire. Happy Get to Know Your Customers Day! May your business succeed, thrive, and grow!
The old business adage is, “It’s easier to retain customers than to find new customers.” Take advantage of Get to Know Your Customers Day by simply doing just that. The rewards could be short-term or long-term, and could be financial or personal. It never hurts to try.
Question: Do you have to reward customers who respond to surveys or polls?
Answer: No really ~ but it can’t hurt. Let’s say you design an entire campaign to really get as much customer feedback as possible, maybe with a promotional item to spread the word and maybe even give away to respondents either for participating, or to enter into giveaway drawings. Regardless of the outcome, the cost ~ for the promotional products ~ is a solid advertising buy. The items (and message) can significantly help with branding, which can prove imperative for a business long-term.
Q.: What’s the best way to get to know our customers?
A.: There are many options available today, from simple email surveys to online polls, social media reach-outs, or maybe even a good old-fashioned mail survey through the U.S. Postal Service. Just remember to also send envelopes with pre-paid postage; respondents should never have to pay to give you feedback.
Your employees can be engaged to help, in a fun way. Think about how Starbucks employees greet every customer who walks in the door. Eventually relationships are built between customers and the business, and those loyal customers are probably exactly who you want to ask for guidance. Simply ask them what products or services they need! First ask, What are we doing right? before asking what may need improvement.
Quick-Tips for Get to Know Your Customers Day
- Greetings. Maybe just focus that day on greeting or otherwise delighting any and all customers you come across. Try it just for that day, and maybe 4 times a year (when this celebration is scheduled).
- Recognize employees. If you have employees your customers particularly appreciate, publicly applaud them.
- Customer experiences. Work to feature them in stories or testimonials in your advertising and outreach efforts.
- Respond. Always aim to offer feedback to the persons providing their feedback. Otherwise they can be left with the impression that they were speaking into a vacuum.
- Survey customers. What better day to do this than this day? Feel free to even mention that it’s Get to Know Your Customers Day ~ which would emphasize that you care.