Fiona Duncan-Steer, founder of RSViP Business Networking Agency, explains the importance of being ‘people’ focused instead of ‘customer’ focused.
Being customer focused isn’t always a good thing. I’ll explain. Wearing your sales hat and providing what you may class as top-notch customer service can and often will go against what you are setting out to achieve in the first place – from the perspective of the customer.
Yes as a consumer we expect professionalism, honesty, a delivery on promises etc etc. That is standard for what we as business owners would like to think we provide consistently through our products and services, but as a customer, we also crave personability, personality and a bespoke service that makes us feel…well, exclusive and a little bit special. Not just another ring in the till, another tally on the chart and another invoice to process, because let’s face it, nobody likes to be ‘sold’ to. In fact, the best salespeople are those who sell to you without you even realising you are being sold to. This is why networking has become the new cold-calling – think about it.
We as a customer want to feel valued, like the hard-earned money we are spending is appreciated. Some of the best experiences I have had when staying at hotels, dining at restaurants or even getting my car washed, are when I have had actual conversations and a bit of a laugh with the waiter/receptionist/bar tender, when they have taken the time to ask me questions, get to know me and make my experience just that little bit extra, going above and beyond the call of duty. That understandably overused cliché of ‘people buy people’ really comes into play here, as we wouldn’t spend our money with someone we didn’t like that much and if we did, it is likely we would feel regretful and unhappy about it, we’d wish we had gone with their competitor down the road who may not have been offering exactly what we were after, but who certainly would have made up for it with enthusiasm and appreciation. Sometimes this is all that it takes to bag the deal with me, in fact most of the time. As humans, we are continually on the quest for connection – even on a subconscious level, so the answer is simple – connect with your audience.
We as businesses cannot afford to get it wrong anymore. With so many competitors out there doing what we do, most markets are saturated, so what stops someone walking a few yards down the road to give their money to your competitor who offers virtually the same thing as you, but just does it with a smile? Mistakes happen yes, no one is perfect, but as a business you cannot afford to be consistently complacent, blindly proceeding with lack of care in anyone or anything besides what they can do for you – particularly in a post pandemic world.
‘Service with a smile’ as they say is most certainly the way forward to capturing the attention of your audience and you’re seventy five percent of the way there in securing business if you have taken the time to get to know what it is your customer wants and needs. Most of the time people don’t even know what it is they need, that’s your job to work that out, so communicating effectively, in order to establish whether what they need is something you can offer them is ultimately very clever business.
Granted you won’t be able to help everyone and again should you accept and admit this early on, it will save a lot of time, will not go unnoticed and will in fact be appreciated and you will be remembered for your honesty – instead of trying to manage expectations and not quite delivering on your promises, resulting in the opposite intention of business self-sabotage.
Being people focused within your business and putting relationship building at the forefront of everything you do is a sure-fire way to laying a healthy and solid foundation for your business, which in turn will only grow and thrive from there. You will be remembered and recommended for your efforts, you will see longevity and higher customer retention and you will build a reputable brand with strong values with people at the core – something that many businesses don’t do because their tunnel vision for ‘bagging the sale’ overtakes everything else.
So, ask yourself, instead of being ‘customer’ focused, could you be a little more ‘people’ focused instead?
Fiona Duncan-Steer, RSViP
See this column in the May edition of East Midlands Business Link Magazine.