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Strategic Planning and Management Insights

Listen to Your Customers: They are the Ones Shaping Your Strategy

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[fa icon="calendar"] April 29 / by Anthony Taylor

Do you believe in the adage that the customer is always right?

I don't.

They are, however, the reason you are in business, so you should take time to listen to what they have to say. 

Here are three ways you can interact with and listen to feedback from customers:

  • The obvious: Social Media

    When your business uses social media, you have the potential to increase customer (or potential customer) engagement. To engage further, you can answer customer questions, and they have the potential to engage with each other across your platforms. 

    However, there can be some concerns with those conversations you are not a part of on these channels: Do you butt in or just listen? What do you do if they are saying bad things about your company and your brand? Being aware about what people are saying about you is critical to reputation management.

    It's important to be aware of what people are saying about you. Hopefully you have a designated department whose roll is to review, analyze and potentially respond to various social media posts (positive and negative) across platforms.

  • The gamble: Feedback and focus groups

    Whether you have a huge budget for focus groups or are sending around an online survey, the information that you receive can be very valuable to your business. There are many benefits to asking your customer directly about how much they will pay for a product or service, how they feel about your brand or marketing tactics, or if they really do like your newest offering or idea. 

    However, there are times when innovation can be halted when listening to the feedback of others:

    “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”- Henry Ford

    Depending on what you are trying to achieve, this type of market research can get you great insight into what your customer is thinking. Focus groups and surveys can get you useful data about your products and services and how it fits within the daily lives of your customers. However, it's important to balance customer feedback with your company's mission and vision so you can have a product/service that your organization can stand behind and that people also want to use. 

  • The nerdiest way: Data analysis

    Data analysis can help you understand your customers more than they understand themselves. It can be used to look at trends and relationships that aren't necessarily obvious. Data analysis doesn't have the emotional bias of social media, nor the moderator bias of focus groups. It's just numbers and interpretation. Many business minds are saying that BIG DATA is the tool in business innovation.

    How do you understand data? Understanding data means interpreting the relationship between things: if something changes, what is the result? Interpreting data can be a daunting task, but I found an article with some free tools that might help your business understand data better.

    The hard part of data analysis is understanding what it's saying, instead of manipulating it to say what you want it to, and there are also a growing number of studies showing that data collected and reviewed by AI can still exhibit biases.

 
Whats the point?

  • Listen with social media(and forums) to see how people feel about you
  • Listen through focus groups to see how people feel about themselves and your product
  • Listen through data to uncover trends in purchasing and behaviour

Simply put: if you make the effort to listen, you'll know more about your customer. This will help you:

  • Market to them more effectively
  • Create products that they want
  • Increase their loyalty to your brand because you "get them"

Your customers might not always be right, but their thoughts and preferences will be dictating your business strategy for the coming years.

Updated: Here's a letter from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos that talks about being customer focused and using that as the foundation for their strategy.

 

Looking for tools and resources to develop your organization's strategy?
Check out our strategic planning starter kit: 

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Or learn about how working with a facilitator can help you maximize the benefits of strategic planning: 

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Topics: Strategic planning, Marketing, Business strategy, Customer Service

Anthony Taylor

Written by Anthony Taylor

Anthony Taylor is thought leader on strategy and leadership. He's a published author on the subject of entrepreneurship and strategy, Anthony can be found doing keynotes in both French and English. You can connect with him on Twitter @anthonyctaylor and have him work with your team on your strategy and organizational development.

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