?ÛÏKnowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.?Û -Lao Tzu
Taking customer relationships for granted has been a longtime blind spot for many businesses and their professionals. We don’t do it knowingly but rather it just evolves over time. You’ve been doing business for years, you’re confident they can’t live without you?ÛÓand they never complain! Then poof, suddenly they are gone.
Blockbuster, the dominant rental video chain, is a prime example of not adapting to change or providing options for their customers. On the other hand, Netflix started off as a small subscription service, sending out videos through the mail. Then they began offering video on-demand, streaming through computers and smart phones. Now Netflix is producing their own on-demand award winning series ?ÛÏHouse of Cards?Û and others. Their 2013 year-end revenue was over $4 billion dollars. Meanwhile Blockbuster went from a peak of 9,000 video stores in 2004 to filing for bankruptcy and finally closing their remaining 300 stores in January of 2014.
Why? The environment around your customer can change their thinking, they may have more options, or a new generation can take over and want to put their mark on the business. They may also perceive you as a one-trick pony, providing a particular product or service, because you haven’t kept them aware of the broader offerings that you provide. You need to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers otherwise they will flat line on you.
How? Identify key customers that you have strong relationships with who will give you honest and candid feedback on your product, service and position in the marketplace. What type of options are they being offered or hearing about? I’ve run surveys for clients who are amazed at what a third party can expose, particularly blind spots in their business they didn’t realize existed. Reward the respondents for taking the time and interest. Another more formalized approach is a facilitated client advisory board. We like to have a cross section of your customers meet two to three times a year to share their thoughts and ideas on a variety of areas pertinent to your business. The feedback and ideas are priceless!