How Entrepreneurs Can Establish a Successful Customer-First Strategy
Your business would be nothing without your customers. Hold up your end of the bargain by putting their needs first.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The customer has always been right, but Covid is putting even more pressure on businesses to cater to their consumer base. Companies simply cannot afford clientele attrition during times like these, and the risks incurred by bad service are greater than ever. A study conducted by the Northridge Group found that 72% of consumers are likely to switch brands after a single negative experience.
The answer here is simple. Put customers at the heart of your business strategy. It's a non-negotiable in today's market — one that's still easier said than done. How exactly can a business put its patrons first once and for all? Here are four ways to start.
1. Lean into deep personalization
If "personalization" to you means addressing customers by name in your marketing emails, it's time to up the ante. Surface-level personalization is low effort stuff, and customers can see straight through it. Don't just use personalization to sell your company harder; use it to cater to your customers' needs better than you ever have before. Deep personalization means building the unique demands into your business model itself. Sound challenging? It doesn't have to be.
One of the best ways to leverage deep personalization is by using it to offer the best possible deals to your customers. Increasingly, firms are analyzing customer usage before suggesting packages and rates. Internet service provider EarthLink, for example, uses speed testing and other metrics to get their customers the plan that works best for them. Customers won't just notice this kind of personalization, they'll reward it with increased brand loyalty.
2. Create a buyer persona
For all the good that personalization can do, it's also expensive, labor-intensive and difficult to pull off. You need to connect with your customers, but some forms of connection may come with price tags too steep for your blood. If that's the case, try creating buyer personas — outlines and sketches of your most common customer types. These personas can be used to cater your products more carefully to the people buying them. Think of it as personalization on a larger scale.
To the uninitiated, though, buyer personas can seem just as alien as personalization does, but they don't have to. Hubspot's how-to guide for creating professional-grade buyer personas is a great place to start, but no one knows your clientele like you do. Conduct surveys, do follow-ups and talk to your front-facing workers. By amalgamating all of that information, you're bound to come up with new ways to put your customers first.
3. Be transparent
Simply put, customers want to know that you're on their side. They want to know that you stand for the same causes as them, that you're operating ethically and that they get to be as much a part of the decision making process as possible. Bearing that in mind, it should come as no surprise that a recent survey from Sprout Social found that 86% of Americans believe that transparency from businesses is more important than ever before.
This one is easy. Listen to your customers and don't leave them in the dark. Get feedback from each new branding decision or product alteration. The moment you lock out your customers, you start telling them that they aren't your priority. By keeping your client base in the loop as much as possible, you're cultivating a two-way relationship capable of withstanding just about anything.
4. Use data — discreetly
Implementing deep personalization and buyer personas is only possible if you have data on your customers first. The world has now officially transitioned into a data economy, meaning that your customers' data are valuable commodities. Using data to build and refine your business can lead to some big returns down the line, but be careful. Mishandling data can set your company back in a big way.
After messaging service WhatsApp announced that users would be required to share their data with Facebook, millions left the platform in protest, permanently damaging the company's reputation and giving its competitors a priceless boost in users. Data collection is a must, but do it carefully and do it well. Anything less will result in huge losses for your company.
Your business would be nothing without your customers, and they know it. It's up to you to hold up your end of the bargain. By putting their needs first, you can cultivate a strategy that will put your company firmly on the path to success.