Running a business these days is a constant exercise in heeding the words of Darwin. The companies most likely to survive are not the richest, nor the biggest, but the ones most able to adapt when change is required. Blockbuster video was purchased by Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion. In 2011, Dish Network paid just $233 million to pick apart the carcass of the once-giant video rental company.
Companies like Blockbuster are cautionary tales because their business goals and methods (allow consumers to drive to a physical location and rent movies for a fee) were out of sync with the needs of their customers and the reality of their marketplace (DVDs offering more permanent options than VHS, with more re-watch value, and the increasing availability of online streaming services).
Going straight to your customers with surveys and questionnaires is a common tactic, and one that generally works. But don’t overlook the most effective resources for figuring out what your customers need: your employees. Here are a few strategies for tapping your workforce for information on your customers.
Trust your employees
Your front-line employees have the closest and most frequent interactions with your customers, and are most likely to have insights into what customers are happy or unhappy with, or what products or services they’re asking about.
Regularly meet with your front-line employees, pick their brains, get their input on how to make day-to-day operations more effective, learn what your customers are looking for, and respond to that information with better, more effective service.
Examine your hiring practices
Customers are most comfortable when dealing with people they believe to be their peers. Hiring employees who mirror your customers can make them more comfortable, and makes your workforce more in touch with the people they’re selling to.
New hires can also be a source of input into your company. While an experienced employee might have insights into the way the company is working, there’s also the chance that they’ve grown too accustomed to the way things are done and are happy to maintain the status quo. Talking to people new to the job can give you the perspective of someone on the outside looking in, which, incidentally, is where most of your customers are.
Asking newly hired employees for their feedback gives you the perspective of someone not yet ingrained in the workings of the system, but who still has a vested interest in the company succeeding. Continue asking for their input as they become more established and more familiar with the inner workings of your company.
To find out how we can help you get the most out of your existing employees and hire new ones who can give you a fresh take, get in touch with us today.