Knowing your customer – their wants and needs – is critical. This is the group that is funding your business.
Customers are moving objects who change and evolve over time. If your business is staying in one place, not making improvements, while customers are moving forward, you will be left behind as customers find better options to suit their new needs.
This doesn’t mean you need to reinvent your business, or completely change your product or menu offerings. Rather, be aware of how service, convenience, and different offerings your customers may be experiencing at your competition may affect their expectations of what you do.
We Are Not Our Customers
This lesson is so important. We are not our customer. Sure, if you own a seafood restaurant, chances are you love seafood, and you hope to attract customers who love seafood. However, even then, you are not your customer because you know too much. More than your average customer. You’ve got the curse of knowledge.
It is critically important to understand we are NOT the customer and our preferences do not necessarily match those of our true customers.
So… we’ve got to ask them… What do you like? Want? Need? We’ve got to test products and programs on them.
Consumer insights is knowledge typically generated at a national or regional level. They’ll tell you things about on-line spending during the holidays, or how much the Hispanic market in the United States is spending on technology purchases. Experian has some great resources for the United States on their Experian Marketing Services pages.
It helps to know the demographics of your potential and existing customers, that is your customer – age, gender, race, income and employment status. Demographic information will let you know, for example, your business is located in a neighborhood of mostly younger, rich, educated women. You can find demographic information for the United States at the US Census site.
United States – Use the American Fact Finder site. Enter your zip code and the information is presented.
Psychographics information goes beyond income and age to understanding activities, interests and opinions of your existing and potential customers. Helps you understand personality, values, attitudes, and lifestyle.
(Hey, we don’t like flashy jargon either. However, these are the terms you’ll need to know to do your research.)
Using psychographics, customers are grouped into different segments, that categorize their lifestyle and interests.
Mosaic USA is a type of segmentation used by Experian. Below is an example of their categories (or dimensions as they call them)
If you’re opening a new business, it is invaluable to understand which neighborhoods are already populated with the type of customer you plan to serve.
Your real estate broker should be able to provide you with this information.
If you are operating an existing business, it is important that you understand the idea behind psychographics in order to cater to existing and potential customers. If you communicate often and honestly with your customers and ask them what their interests are – basically simply being a good neighbor – you should fairly well understand the activities, interests and opinions – the psychographics – of your customers.
A good segue to the next topic…
Ask for Feedback
The number one best way to get feedback is to ask – on the spot – “how is it today?” In the most successful restaurants and stores, 99% of the time, you’ll find a manager or assistant working the room. Approaching every table or every customer saying “Hello. How are you? Are you finding everything okay? Are you having a good experience?”
See What They See / Fresh Eyes Tour
Do you and your employees enter your business through the back door? Do you spend most of your time standing behind the counter, the POS, or behind the scenes?
We’re working so hard to serve the customer, we forget the experience as a customer.
Make a point of entering your business from a block away, from the sidewalk, through the front door. How does your signage look? Your sidewalk? Your front windows? Does everything look new, clean and clutter free? Are all the lights working? Is the sidewalk free of gum, cigarette butts, dirt and stains? Are your window sills clean and dirt/dust free?
When you first enter the location, does it smell good? Sound good? Look good? Are customers being greeted and welcomed? Is it too bright? Too dark? Is the temperature comfortable, not too cold, hot or humid?
Knowing as much as possible about the people you’re serving will ensure you meet or exceed their expectations. Hopefully, these ideas and tools will help you out.