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Better Business Idea #8

How To Use Your Customers' Key Frustrations To Build Your Business

September 3, 1997

It is vitally important to learn what irritates customers in dealing with businesses in your industry, and your business in particular.

What are some examples you can think of? How about the line item for $3.50 in copy charges at the bottom of your attorney's $1,000 bill? What about house painters that don't respect your furniture, or leave a tarp in your bathtub? Perhaps taking four hours to buy a car? Then there is getting "lost" in "voice mail hell"...

Often being in the business can make us myopic. We don't see the problems in front of our noses. How can we learn what is driving customers away?

One way is to hire an independent consultant to observe what is happening in our business. Sometimes a consultant can make suggestions for relatively minor modifications that can dramatically change results.

We can also get direct customer feedback through a customer advisory board. We or (perhaps better) a facilitator can meet with customers and potential customers to elicit their feelings.

Having team meetings with front-line employees can also provide valuable information -- their observations about how customers respond to the way they are treated and suggestions on how procedures can be improved.

Customers can be encouraged to give their comments through creative promotional techniques, including rewards and feedback to customers on how we are responding to their comments, perhaps through our newsletter. One bank devised an instant feedback technique by having customers deposit poker chips with happy, neutral and unhappy faces in a box after a transaction. The chips were counted several times a day to determine customer delight during busy and slow intervals of the day.

Certainly we should study customer complaints made to managers, in letters, or wherever we encounter them to determine whether an operational problem exists that should be corrected.

Once we have identified our customers' key frustrations and developed internal systems to eliminate these concerns in our business, we can change the frustration into a differentiating advantage for our business.

How can we do this?

Probably the best way is to offer an extraordinary guarantee. For example, pizza customers were frustrated by receiving cold delivered pizza. Dominos built its business by guaranteeing it would deliver fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, or the pizza was free. A hospital guaranteed that patients needing emergency care would not wait more than 15 minutes, or they would receive a 10% reduction in their fees. The result was a 30% increase in emergency room revenues in the first year.

Guarantees are especially powerful selling tools because they enable businesses to reverse the risk, thus eliminating an objection of the buyer thinking about doing business with us.

Another way to use key frustrations as a marketing tool is to publish performance standards. Commitments to and from customers may be listed to create a better understanding of the transactional relationship.

The sales presentation can refer to the performance standards as a selling point. For example: "Many customers hate waiting for a washing machine repair-person to arrive. We will arrive within 15 minutes of the time we estimate, or there will be no charge for the first hour of our service call."

Would you like some help in turning your customers' frustrations into marketing advantages? Call Mike Gray at (408) 918-3161 for an appointment today.

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Michael Gray, CPA
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