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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Gaining client insights

Chip Bell and John Patterson's Customer Loyalty Guaranteed belongs in your marketing library. (Thanks Sonny Lykos for sending it to me.)
Today, I received an interesting comment to my Dec. 9 posting "About Showerheads and Observing", specifically Chip Bell and John Patterson's book: Customer Loyalty Guaranteed which advocates, among others learning how to observe your clients close-up. The authors cited Moen's initiative in watching people take showers -- using this first-hand insight to design better shower-heads.

Brian reported:
We are a CM firm and ironically enough, have worked with Chip Bell and John Patterson. There should not be any beating around the bush on this topic. Get right to the heart of what you are trying to get, information from the customer. There is nothing better than face to face dialog, not disguised with lunch and learns nor surveys. The hard part is asking the right questions and getting answers from someone who is willing to share. Our experience has been that if people know that you need their help and that you will act on their information, they will take the time and will be honest. The next best approach is to get a third party to diffuse the tension that may exist from a customer that wants to speak his mind.
I think this comment has real merit. Sometimes we make things complicated, and over-structured. Speaking with our clients, listening to them, and learning from them can provide valuable insights to improve our relationships -- and our businesses.


Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, a lot of problems can be eliminated before they start if companies embrace the concept of an "advisory board." Just before selling my business to my sons, I was gong to develop one.

If I owned a decent sized construction business today my advisory board would consist of local successful business owners in other industries, a vendor or two, and two clients. I'd pay them for the quarterly meetings, prepare them for the meetings with a report, financial standings, and meeting agenda.

Contractors tend to think alike, and is the reason for a diverse board - to get different perspectives. Here's a better explanation:

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

This is an excellent point. A good question, of course, is at what size would the company need to be to justify having this kind of advisory board.

Sonny Lykos said...

Since an advisory board will not only improve efficiency, operational systems, "branding," etc., I"d recommend starting one after sales hit around $400K or so. Initially meetings can be semiannual and increase to quarterly as sales increase.

Most contractors have a minimum of $100,000 in sales per employee, so that $400K would mean at the point of around 4 employees, including the owner.

The owner can prepare and start by noting on paper and dates, the compliments and from whom, and being very aware of customer complaints, or what may not actually be complaints, but even minor disappointments. They in turn, will serve as a basis for which to begin the improvement process. The above should not be viewed casually since it's an important aspect of the branding process as well.

Too many contractors want to be successful, when the term "success" is ambiguous to begin with. Instead, they should strive to be a "significant" force in their locale, in each of the important aspects of the company/customer relationship.

For example before I started my own handyman business I made a list - on paper - of complaints I heard from the public about service people in general. From that list I created systems in my mind so I would not violate my commitment to not make those mistakes. From there, my business took off in Chicago, Mich. and here in FL. In each case, I was able to stop all advertising within just a few months because referrals and repeats calls were constantly coming in and the business continue to grow in sales on a monthly basis.

Of course, being a strong advocate of perpetual training, each new employee was indoctrinated into our company's "culture" of how we operated - sort of the E-Myth philosophy. "This is how we do it here" And the "it" included everything.

Anonymous said...

I work for real estate company and I believe that all our business is about face-to-face communication. We have to understand our clients' needs and this is the best way how to do it. However, the costs are considerable. What appeared in my mind reading this discussion is that there could be nice cooperation between constructors and realtors. The reason is that for making home inspection you need a specialist and construction specialist might be often used. If you check our Toronto Home Buyer's Guide you can see that one of the steps we advice our clients is making home inspection with specialist. It can be nice marketing opportunity.