Topic overview

Understanding your customers

Happy customer and business owner coming to an understanding on a contract

Understanding customers is the key to giving them good service. To give good customer care you must deliver what you promise. But great customer care involves getting to know your customers so well that you can anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations.

To understand your customers well, you need to be attentive to them whenever you are in contact with them. The potential rewards are great: you can increase customer loyalty and bring in new business through positive word-of-mouth recommendation.

There are three main ways to understand your customers better. One is to put yourself in their shoes and try and look at your business from their point of view. The second way is to collect and analyse data in order to shed light on their buying behaviour. The third way is simply to ask them what they think.

Put yourself in your customers' shoes

Understanding your customers requires you to put yourself in their shoes take a hard look at the points at which your customers have contact with your business. These include meetings and visits, phone calls, correspondence and deliveries. Do your premises look scruffy, is your receptionist unfriendly or do your phones ring and ring without being answered? All of these things can make a customer feel disappointed.

The most common customer complaint is being kept waiting. If you're slow to return calls or fulfil orders, then you're in danger of losing customers. Above all, customers want you to deliver what you have promised and surpass their expectations.

As a small business, you can offer a personal service. If you remember a customer's name and recall your last conversation with them, you will have brightened up their day. They will also tell their friends what a great service you provide.

Understanding your customers and improving your service must be a priority throughout your business. Everyone from the front desk to the delivery staff should focus on exceeding customer expectations.

 

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Using data to understand your customers

Your database or customer relationship management system (CRM) holds valuable information about your customers that will help you understand their needs.

Investigate the data you hold on your customers, it can tell you a lot. Look for patterns so you can see when your customers typically make orders. You can also use the data to analyse your performance. Check how quickly you're responding to orders or delivering goods.

CRM systems are more sophisticated than simple mailing lists. Because they hold information about customer behaviour and preferences they can improve customer satisfaction and retention. They can help you to identify customer needs more effectively, allowing you to up-sell and cross-sell, increasing profitability.

Ask your customers what they think

Conduct a customer satisfaction survey and you will make your customers feel valued. You will also gain valuable insights. But don't ask for feedback if you're not prepared to make changes. When you do make improvements, tell your customers what you have done as a result of their feedback.

Well-compiled customer surveys can tell you things you may not know, including human factors such as staff behaviour. Not everyone complains when they are dissatisfied. Instead, they tell their friends about their bad experience and take their business elsewhere. Unless you proactively consult your customers, you may never discover if you are going wrong.

As well as asking for feedback, set up a customer contact programme to ensure you keep in touch with your clients. A good customer contact strategy will allow you to listen to your customers and tell them more about what you offer.

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