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A big business secret every small business can use

Big businesses appear to have one huge advantage over smaller guys – they have access to best practice knowledge and tools to help them beat their competition – especially smaller competitors. Think you can’t access these skills and knowledge? Think again.

Let’s start with secret number one – your customers. Every business needs happy customers if they want to stay in business. But how do you know if your customers are satisfied with your product or service? Most businesses don’t, because they don’t spend enough time getting to know what’s called the “voice of the customer” (VOC). This is what customers are saying about you.

Big companies, including some of the largest and best brands out there, spend a lot of time and energy to understand the “voice of the customer”.

Most businesses, particularly smaller ones, develop and design their products and services around what they think the customer will want. This is a big mistake, unless you’re in an innovative industry like Apple where the customer doesn’t know what they want, because it hasn’t been invented yet! Instead of approaching their products this way, businesses need to consider what the customer is looking for and then adapt their products and services to meet this need.

So what should your business do to understand the customer better?

Step 1: Collect the “voice of the customer”

You can do this easily, just by having a casual chat with your customers or using things like feedback forms, surveys, social media and free samples. You might even get a little creative, and subtly incorporate feedback into your products or services – verbatim comments are an especially great way to find out what customers are really thinking. When reading through verbatim feedback, you’ll discover that customers often don’t value the things you thought were great about your product or service, but actually value things you hadn’t considered.

Step 2: Analyse the VOC information collected 

Take all the information you’ve gathered from your customers and analyse it to see if any patterns exist in what customers are saying. For verbatim comments in particular, you should identify keywords being used that have real meaning for your business. For example, from the comment “I really liked that they made it a worry free experience for me” you should focus on the words “worry free” as something that’s important to the customer – and you’ll soon notice certain keywords are repeated by many customers.

Step 3: Start offering what your customers want

Start to introduce more of what customers like into your products and services, and remove what they don’t like. Then, repeat your VOC research to find out the changes have made a difference.

Remember – your customer wants and needs will change naturally as the environment shifts around them, aso you need to be thinking about your VOC constantly if you want to stay ahead of the game.

So get out there and talk to your customers – don’t just assume you know their needs because you most probably don’t.

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Jana Krizova Hocken

Jana Krizova Hocken

Jana is the founder of <a href="http://improve8.com/">Improve8</a>, and has 12 years of experience using best practice methodologies to help some of the leading companies globally to continuously improve, and be more productive, lean, competitive, profitable and customer focused. She is now sharing this knowledge and empowering small businesses in Australia and NZ with the skills, tools and thinking they need to improve and achieve their potential. Follow her on Twitter @improve8co

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