Should You Listen to Your Customers?
The most glaringly obvious answer to this question is yes, but if you act on every whim from customers that come your way, you’ll not only dilute your finances, but also your brand.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.” But are they? If you’re a business owner, I’m pretty sure you just shouted, “HELL NO!” and you’re right…but are they always wrong? That’s a “nope,” too.
Obviously, your customers want (and deserve) to be heard, but the problem lies in what you (and they) do with that information. If you are receiving feedback from a client you actually like (yes, it’s ok to have favorites), then their concerns and input were most likely formed out of a general desire to help, and you’re probably more inclined to listen. If the advice is coming from a particularly cantankerous customer, then their criticisms may be unfounded…or may be just unflinchingly honest. I’ll give you an example of this:
In a previous business, I had just shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for a complete renovation, including brand new floors. I had busted butt all week making sure everything was going smoothly—I was exhausted and just a little low on cash (which makes me not just a little bit crazy). Under the advice of the floor installation crew, I had chosen a particular transition from tile to wood and although I wasn’t crazy about it, they assured me it was my only real choice.
Cue my client. She was not my favorite (although she was in my top ten of paying customers). She walked into the “brand new” facility, took one look at that floor transition, and basically told me it was crap. Boom—blow to my pride.
My first thought was a very colorful string of expletives. Quite honestly, my actual word choice, though lacking in curse words, was, at best, a little curt. But I was pissed! Here I was, beyond exhausted, and all I wanted was a gleaming accolade or two. Instead, I got a swift kick in the gut. She then proceeded to tell me about this revolutionary product that did XYZ and I basically shut her down with “nah, uh, the professionals said blah blah.”
Not my finest moment. But after I cooled down and thought about it (and realized she owned a high-end flooring business and I was an idiot), I apologized to my client and asked her for a consultation, which, in the end, led to much more gorgeous floors.
The point? Sometimes we can get good advice in bad situations and in negative ways (like all those terrible Yelp reviews that exist). As the leader, it’s our job to filter out all the options and make the best decisions.
But even with our favorite clients giving out “loving suggestions,” we should still consider these ideas carefully. No one knows your business and your vision quite as well as you do.
If you’re looking for an easy way to identify what advice to take, consider your absolute top ten—not just the ten people who spend the most, but the ten people who spend the most AND are the most fun to have around. Those are your ideal clients and you want to duplicate them.
Take them to coffee, or to lunch, or for ice cream and ask them:
- Why did they start coming to your business?
- How or where did they hear about you?
- What similar businesses did they use before that they didn’t really like?
- What keeps them from coming more often, or what do they wish you offered, too?
These questions answer very important marketing queries:
- What need did you fulfill and what you can say to entice future clients?
- Which marketing efforts are working the best?
- Who might be other unknown competitors and what eventually turned your ideal client away from them?
- How you can be better and create more value for your clients? It’s far cheaper to retain existing clients and increase how much they spend at your business than to try to find more and more new clients.
As a bonus, try the same tactic with your staff members (or potential staff members). Let them be your eyes and ears to the client and company pulse. Ask them:
- What made you want to start working here specifically (not just that you were unemployed)?
- What similar companies have you worked for and why did you leave?
- What do you wish we offered? What would you change?
- For existing staff: what have you heard the clients or other team members ask for? What is your opinion?
Just remember that no matter the criticism or advice, YOU are ultimately in charge of making any decisions or changes to your business. Trust yourself. There is a reason you are the boss.