When we want our businesses to be better, we take the needs of our customers very seriously. But when business is good, we often put the needs of the company first.
When business is good we:
- Start taking the customer for granted
- Assume we will get enough business
- Don’t focus on customer retention
- Cut costs to improve margins
- Look at ways to reduce competition
When we want to grow we:
- Find ways to better meet customer needs
- Fight for their business
- Work to keep current customers happy
- Invest in the customer-facing side of our business
- Focus on outperforming competitors
The fastest, cheapest and most effective way to grow your business is by better meeting your customers’ needs. It’s also the way to keep more customers loyal and make them willing to pay more.
Making customers feel important is the first step to better meeting their needs. When you make them feel important they:
- Feel that you appreciate them
- Trust you more
- Open up and share more
- Are more likely to buy again
- Become less price-sensitive
Building materials channel customers aren’t feeling that way. Most of them feel less important to building materials companies. They’re treated more like a necessary evil than an essential part of the business.
Every interaction with a building materials company is now predicated on what’s best for the company instead of the customer.
Response time, shipping dates, order status, pricing and tech support are all in decline. And forget about special requests.
I can’t help but think that this is another example of how the building materials industry is ten (or more) years behind the rest of the business world.
Why does the building materials industry take powerful tools like ERP and use them to increase profits while pissing off more customers? Shouldn’t the goal be to grow sales and margins while also increasing customer satisfaction?
It’s possible to achieve both. Companies like Amazon, Tesla and Apple use these tools to grow while creating loyal and satisfied customers.
Your company may be focused on what’s best for itself, but that’s not an excuse. You, as an individual, can still show the customer that you’re focused on their needs.
If you interact with customers in any way, you can be a rock star in their minds even if the company you work for isn’t as committed to the customer’s success as you are.
Too many people
“Our company can’t (ship samples, get quotes, answer technical questions, confirm ship dates, etc.) fast enough. My hands are tied. I can’t grow the business as long as we have this problem.”
If they read the book Now, Discover Your Strengths they would know that the key to success is not to improve your weaknesses but to make the best use of your strengths. That should be your focus, even as you work on problem areas.
As you and your company move forward in this changing world, you also need to be prepared to let go of some things.
- There are no special requests at Amazon like the ones we expect at a brick and mortar store, yet Amazon keeps growing.
- You don’t have to meet with anyone or take a test drive to buy a Tesla and they keep growing.
- Apple has very firm but consistent policies that may not be viewed as customer-friendly, but they keep growing.
The needs of the building
There’s nothing wrong with cutting costs. The trick is knowing which costs to cut or reallocate without making the customer feel like they don’t matter. If you can figure those out, you can lower your expenses without slowing down your growth.