Are your customers telling you the whole truth?
Is your business on the road to mediocrity?June 16th, 2015 by
As your business continues to grow and expand, there comes a point where you’re so busy and have so much going on, things may start to slip through the cracks. You’re working hard trying to keep it all together, so maybe you forget a follow-up call here or push out a strategy meeting there. You’ve got your own processes and may be accustomed to doing everything yourself, but now that you’ve got a team behind you, have you’ve laid the foundation for how to keep things running smoothly?
Shawn McCadden, author of The Design/Builder’s Blog, created a checklist of red flags that might spell mediocrity. Here’s a summary of the main points from his checklist and how you can overcome these issues.
Have Defined Policies and Procedures
The quickest way to mediocrity is not having clearly defined policies and procedures in place that are known by all employees in your organization. For example, maybe you have a certain follow-up procedure for each homeowner you work with throughout a project. Employee A follows this process each and every time and has great communication with your customers. Employee B, on the other hand, doesn’t always follow up within the determined time frame and may forget from time to time. This creates an inconsistency with your customer’s experience and may lead to more issues or slip-ups that could have been avoided.
Ensuring that everyone on your team knows what their job is and how to do it effectively will increase productivity and reduce the risk of error. If you do have written policies, make sure your employees understand why certain policies are in place, how they benefit the business and the customer, and the consequences for not following through with those procedures.
Use Criticism and Feedback for Improvement
It’s always tough to hear criticism, no matter who it comes from. In order to be a successful business owner, you’ve got to learn to develop a thick skin and view feedback and criticism as a way to improve yourself and your business. Let your employees and your customers know that you’re open to feedback. This will do two things: 1) It will create a more open, collaborative and empowered work environment where your employees feel safe coming to you with concerns and issues, and 2) Your customers will be more inclined to share feedback with you, both positive and negative, that you can use to identify strengths and weaknesses within your business.
Communicate with Your Customers
One of Sean’s indicators of mediocrity was, “Long-term customers stop doing business with you and you don’t bother to ask them why.” This is a huge red flag and can lead your business down a path you don’t want to take. Not only does this mean you’ve lost a long-term customer, which can be 6-7 times less expensive to acquire than a new customer, but you could continue to lose previous or potential customers for something you have no idea how to fix.
Even worse, a customer may give you a reason why they’re unhappy and way to solve it, and you still do nothing to address their concerns. I’m sure most of you wouldn’t operate a business like this, but I do suggest taking a proactive versus a reactive approach to customer communication so as to avoid these situations all together. Putting a set process in place for collecting customer feedback allows you to hear from all your customers, not just those that are extremely happy or mad, and helps you have a better sense for why people are or aren’t doing business with you. If you take the time to listen to that feedback and make adjustments, you’ll probably have much fewer long term customers deciding to leave you for your competitor.
Ignorance is NOT Bliss
While the saying “ignorance is bliss” may hold true in some instances, it’s certainly not the case for running a business. You always want to have a pulse on how things are going, both internally and externally, so you can take action if needed. According to Sean, mediocrity can creep in by creating, “an artificial harmony by ignoring culture deficiencies and or tension between team members and pretend everything is OK.” To avoid this, create a workplace that fosters communication and openness across all levels and departments, where employees feel comfortable coming to you or to each other with concerns and suggestions.
While it’s pretty obvious that you don’t want to ignore what’s going on in your own office, you certainly don’t want to miss what your customers are saying either. Aside from following up with your customers, you should also monitor what’s being said about your company on the web. I recommend creating a Google alert for your company name, that way you’ll know any time your company is mentioned in an online article. Also, have a presence on social sites like Facebook and Twitter so you can interact with your customers and monitor what they’re sharing about your company.
By taking these steps, you’ll have a better understanding of your business and how you need to operate to avoid mediocrity. If you’re dedicated to constant improvement and customer satisfaction, you’ll set yourself apart from the pack and will be a true leader in the area that you serve.