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Stormy Weather For Your Business?

Hurricane Obama

Hurricane Sandy wreaked record havoc on the east coast, but we felt only minor effects here in Chicagoland. Most Chicago-area businesses weren’t affected at all by this epic disaster.

But another major disaster looms for America’s businesses – and especially small businesses – if our current national administration is allowed four more years to take us further down the wrong path.

As Illinois voters, there’s basically nothing we can do about this, of course. Even if every small business owner in our state votes to send the incumbent incompetents packing (and every small business owner certainly should), that still won’t nearly be enough to overcome the majority of our state’s voters – mostly those in the city of Chicago – who prefer handouts and federal government meddling to hard work and a free market economy.

Not that the alternative is that much better. For the most part, no one (including the challenger himself?) has any concrete idea of what steps he’ll take to fix things.

However, there’s no doubt that the current administration’s spend-all-you-want-we’ll-print-more policies have us mired in the worst “recovery” in history. The thousands of small business owners I talk to are in a virtual 100% agreement that the economy is NOT better than it was four years ago.

And there’s the even more dangerous problem that congressional members of the two parties have somehow forgotten that their job is to work together to set a budget and perform other basic duties.

So we have to be resigned to the fact that no matter who wins the presidential race, our problems are likely to continue. In other words, we’re basically stuck with the system of government we have that continues to take us in the wrong direction. Unless we choose to move out of the country.

Sounds harsh?

That’s the same choice your own customers, clients or patients have. Or at least that’s the way they feel: It’s much simpler and easier to stay with an “incumbent” current provider of a product or service than to start all over and find a new provider.

That’s good news for you, if you provide an excellent product or service and excellent customer service.

Which brings us to the subject of this post.

Last week, I talked about the first secret to building a solid customer service plan and how to decide what your vision is.

Today we’ll talk about the second secret in turning your satisfied customers into raving fans: You must know what your customers want.

Once you know who your customers really are and what they’re all about, you will know better how to serve them.

Demographics are really important here. An affluent woman in her 30’s is going to have completely different expectations than a middle class man in his 50’s.

There are four main areas you need to pay attention to when figuring out what your customers want:

  1. Listen to Your Customers
  2. Ask Your Customers Sincerely
  3. Offer More than Just a Product or Service
  4. Know When to Ignore Them

These are all important for you to decide what your customers truly want out of their shopping experiences with you.

I. Listen to Your Customers

You need to listen to both what they say and what they don’t say. Customers may say they want one thing but really mean something else. For example, even if your customers are begging for lower prices, you may find out that their real priority is quick delivery.

Also, listen to your “silent” customers. These are the customers who don’t bother to complain because they feel your service is so bad they’ve just given up and don’t feel like their voice matters. They feel unwanted, and when a competitor shows up they’ll be gone.

Lastly, you need to listen to customers who only reply with “fine”. These customers are similar to the “silent” customers – they are so used to bad customer service that they only give a monotone response to your questions.

II. Ask Your Customers Sincerely

If you aren’t sincere when you ask their opinion, they are going to see right through you. You need to ask them sincere questions that get them thinking about their experiences, and make them realize that you really care (which, hopefully, you do!).

III. Offer More than Just a Product or Service

Your customers are looking for much more than a simple product or service; they’re looking for an experience that makes them feel good. They judge every step of the process with a value. When you take this into consideration and treat them like people, they will feel like they truly belong.

IV. Know When to Ignore Them

You may think this goes beyond providing good customer service, but in reality you can’t give them everything. You need to accept that some people will never be happy with you, no matter what you do.

That’s why you have to set limits and stick to them. If your vision and company don’t meet the needs of the customer, they will be better off elsewhere. (And besides, if they really are a pain-in-the-butt customer, why not make one of your competitors waste their time, energy and money on them?)

These are the steps and tricks to figuring out what your customers want and how you can use that knowledge to work on your customer service vision and plan.

If you get stuck, try our FREE test drive and let us help you through the process.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote. And to prepare for the possibility of another four years of a man-made disaster for small business worse than any hurricane could ever be.

Because for most of us, evacuating the country is not a realistic alternative.

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