A trap many big companies fall into is losing touch with their customers. Many executives never talk to customers directly, only learning through statistics and demographics. As a result, they often make decisions to treat their customers like numbers, not human beings. Customers dread calling into these sorts of companies, like AOL.
Small businesses have the advantage that the owners and decision-makers are often forced to be on the front lines dealing with customers. This helps in gaining a deep understanding of what customers want. In fact, I often prefer buying from small businesses because they usually have a more personal touch. Ironically, as the business prospers, the folks in charge often throw away this connection with customers by hiring poorly-paid customer service people.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Some big companies, like Nordstrom, are famous for their customer service. The key is growing your company intelligently.
Make sure all the decision makers in your company spend at least some time keeping in touch directly with customers by doing customer service, taking orders, or making some calls. This will help them understand how your offerings can be improved. They’ll get to hear problems and suggestions right from the customers. Or if customers are confused, they can think about how to tweak the product or information to clarify. It’s also an incredible motivational boost when they know exactly whom their work will help.
It may be humbling, and you might hear some complaints that they don’t have time for it, but you can’t afford to let the business be run by people who don’t know your customers inside out.