Whether you’re a B2B or B2C manufacturer, your customers are the lifeblood of your business. While many small and medium-sized manufacturers often look inward for ways to improve business and processes, such as adopting new technology or improving employee training, it’s also important to venture outside your own doors and listen to your customers.
Listening to your customers doesn’t just mean picking up the phone when they call or making eye contact when meeting with them. Good listening goes further than that, and involves understanding each of the following:
- Their day-to-day situation. How can you learn more about your customer in order to better meet their needs?
- The challenges they face. What are their pain points and how can you help?
- Their goals. What can you do to help them achieve them and how can you eliminate obstacles that stand in their way?
- How and why they use your product. What can you do to improve your products or processes to make them even more valuable?
By understanding each of the above, you’ll be able to reap the rewards below.
5 Ways Listening to Customers Benefits Your Business
1. You build stronger relationships.
When a customer comes to you with a problem or challenge, it’s crucial that you solve it promptly. You can accomplish this by asking questions in order to quickly get to the heart of the problem. Rather than insisting on the resolution you think is most promising, be sure to find out what they want; that means not just listening to what they’re saying, but listening to what they really mean. Once the customer feels heard, they feel important, and studies show that customers who have a positive emotional experience are six times more likely to purchase from you again, and 12 times more likely to recommend you to their network.
2. You increase sales.
Oftentimes, you may be so focused on acquiring new customers that you can forget to pay attention to existing customers. This is a mistake you don’t want to make, as studies have shown that the success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is just 5-20%. Listening to customers helps you better meet their needs, increasing customer retention and loyalty—and loyal customers are:
- Five times as likely to repurchase
- Five times as likely to forgive
- Four times as likely to refer
- Seven times as likely to try a new product
3. You gain new customers.
Word of mouth is often your best sales tool, and a staggering 77% of customers would recommend a company to a friend after having a positive experience. When you’re consistently providing outstanding service, you’re more likely to encourage referrals. Remember to ask for referrals as well; when customers tell you that you went above and beyond, remind them that you’d love for them to share it on social media. Case studies based upon your best customers are another great way to sell yourself to potential new customers, so create some and ask your customer if you can highlight them on your website. You might also consider offering referral incentives, such as a discount on your next shipment.
4. You avoid negative outcomes.
While providing a good experience can boost sales, one bad experience can hurt them. 33% of customers will consider switching companies after just one instance of poor customer service. Perhaps even worse, only 1 in 25 unhappy customers will complain directly to you; instead, they’ll go to their social networks to let colleagues and friends know about their bad experience. In fact, the White House Office of Consumer Affairs reveals that a dissatisfied customer tells 9-15 people about their poor experience, and nearly 13% tell more than 20 people. So be sure to monitor your social media and always respond promptly to avoid a crisis situation.
5. You gain valuable feedback.
Bill Gates once said that “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” and it’s true. Feedback, especially from those who are dissatisfied with your product or service, is a great way to learn about how you can improve. Listening to their concerns enables you to fill the gap between their expectations and your delivery. Of the companies who work to improve their customer experience based on feedback, 84% see an increase in revenue. To get feedback that doesn’t come to you naturally, you may choose to survey customers, or look at customer reviews (always reply to show you are listening; not only does this let the unhappy customer know you care, it sends a message to potential customers that you listen).
It’s expected that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Part of this entails listening to customers, and in an age when there are many competing products, good customer service can truly set a small and medium-sized manufacturer apart from the pack. Interested in other ways to become more customer-centric? Watch for our upcoming blog, “How Industry 4.0 for Manufacturers Can Improve the Customer Experience.”