How large organisations are adapting to changing customer requirements… or what is it that small businesses really need to pay attention to
Silvia Myers, Founder of Bright Cherry
05 January 2018
Recently, I went to an event which was organized by the Customer Centric Institute of Australia (CSIA) – the main Australian body helping organisations put their customers at the heart of everything they do, and it was all about discussing the main topics that are now present in the business environment and what organisations are doing about that.
And at the back of my head, I’ve been thinking – what is it that entrepreneurs, startups, and small business owners can do about that and how does it affect them?
The thing is that the business environment has completely changed over the last 10 to 15 years. And the reason why it’s rapidly changed is because of the presence of the internet. Even without having to be an IT whizz, it’s easy to know that there are now countless numbers of devices connected to one other which means that people have a very easy access to information, literally at the tip of their fingertips.
“What that means is that consumers have much more choice than ever before and no longer do they have to just choose from a limited number of local providers but can easily tap into the global market or the ‘shared economy’ offering.”
On top of that, through online reviews, consumers can decide not to engage with a business without even ever coming into a real contact with them.
A few years ago, Jim Blasingame and then later the Forrester research group, have named the age we live in The Age Of The Customer. The reason for that is because there has been a major power switch.
The power of controlling information and the power of influencing new products and services is no longer with the organisation that’s selling, it’s now with the customer.
These days, it’s customers who shape products and services and generate a huge amount of information about them. And now, with an extremely wide variety of choices, customers are free to choose the exact product or service that supports their wants and needs.
This is the main reason why large organisations have been pumping literally billions of dollars into frameworks and systems where they can readily adapt to ever changing customer demands. They’ve been spending enormous resources to have an in depth understanding of what customers’ wants and needs are and how can they adapt their products, services and pricing.
And so, where does this leave entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners? These independent operators also need to be able to adapt to what’s happening on the market so that they don’t just fight for survival but really thrive in the environment and make sure that they have a sustainable business moving forward.
The thing is that large organisations have been investing literally billions of dollars going down that path globally and that’s obviously something small business owners can’t do.
That’s why more than ever before, it’s very important for these small businesses and independent operators understand the current market trends what is it that large organisations are doing globally so they can also thrive in that environment, adapt quickly and make sure that their business is a sustainable one.
So going back to the event that contained a few representatives of some key large organisations. Brands like Amex, Salesforce, Sydney Waters and AMP came in to share their insights and experiences. And when it comes to the Australian market of putting customers at heart of everything they do, some of these brands are really leading the way right now.
Three key topics made it into the final round:
- Changes in buying behaviour
- Customer centric business measures
One of the topics that was discussed were partnerships. This is very relevant for small business owners because there is only that much a small business owner can achieve on their own and therefore having the right partnerships is really a key.
However, despite having the ability to make your business, the panelists were also giving examples of how partnerships can break your business once gone wrong. The thing is that so many business owners discuss terms and conditions, rules, agreements, financials but they forget to discuss their customers and alignment in their mutual values.
And so the panelists at the event suggested to place your customers at the centre of the discussion with your potential strategic partners. Each discussion should contain specifications of who the customer is, what is the customer benefit resulting from this partnership and how could partners join forces to provide that service together.
Changes in buying behaviour
Another interesting insight was about the changing requirements when it comes to buying. And when we say buying it also means customer preferences on how they like to be sold to.
One of the major shifts on the market today is that customers are 5 times more likely to buy a product when they are actually being serviced.
Previously, businesses used to look at a sales pipeline and delivery pipeline as two separate parts of a businesses – one generating revenue and one being a cost centre – however, this is no longer the case.
Businesses now need to incorporate the selling into the servicing and that’s not just because it’ll have a great impact on the bottom line but also to make sure that they actually cater to customers needs and preferences.
In the past, there used to be a customer service process that was about dealing with enquiries only. Remember how you used to be transferred to a different department if you wanted to pay a bill or upgrade your service package?
This is no longer the case and whether you’re one man show or a business of 200, you need to understand that. The shift in buying behaviour comes from a deeply rooted psychological conditioning and the feeling of trust. If you’re in the middle of servicing your customers and they have a further need, you’d be doing them a disfavour if you didn’t offer them the opportunity to purchase extras.
Customer centric business measures
Another important topic discussed at the event were business measures. Do you ever measure whether you delivered to customer expectations or above?
We all know that delivering great customer service is now more important than ever before and vast majority of large organisations do measure to certain extend how well they deliver customer service but when it comes to small businesses, there are still so many that don’t pay attention to these measures.
Small business owners often say or feel that they have a great rapport with their customers, that the customer is free to give them feedback whether it’s good or bad. However, according to statistics, only 1 in 26 unhappy customers complain. The rest just leave.
So if you are a business that doesn’t grow through repeat customers I’d suggest to reach out to them and ask them how you’ve served them. Nothing encourages real honest feedback more than the ability to stay anonymous initiated by the seller. It shows that the business really cares about its customers.
The longer businesses keep living in the dark and misunderstanding whether they delivered above or below customers’ expectations, the greater the danger for them that they will not be able to sustain their businesses.
So as a business owner, how are you adapting to changing customer requirements? What changes have you seen in your industry and what impact did it have on the way you operate? Did times get better for you because you’ve done it right or have you perhaps had to face some tougher challenges? Whatever it is, I’d love to hear your story! To share your thoughts and experience with like minded entrepreneurs, write your comments below.
Silvia is the Founder of Bright Cherry, a customer centric consultancy specialising in helping entrepreneurs and small business owners understand their customers and build successful businesses around that. The fact is that 90% of entrepreneurs fail and one of the reasons is that majority of businesses don’t understand their target market. Get in touch to join the growing network of successful entrepreneurs committed to reach new heights through delivering to their customers’ wants and needs.