“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
– Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart
One of the greatest benchmarks for business success is customer satisfaction.
The founder of Walmart, the American multinational retail giant, said it best- The customer is your boss! Businesses cannot exist and thrive if no one believes in and supports their product or service.
Aspiring startups have recently realized that in order for the business to be sustainable and profitable, it must focus on people- its customers and its employees alike- before focusing on target revenue, complicated business models, and product alterations. If you are a startup looking to stay in the game of business, it is crucial to know and grow your customer base and make them happy first. Only then should you grow your inventory or develop another marketing strategy.
In this article, we help you bring your startup to success by getting to know your customer base and making them really happy and satisfied. We use these 4 R’s (Represent, Respond, Relate, and Resolve) as our guide.
1. Represent your Ideal Customer using a Persona
What best way to get to know your customer than to be the one to create him/her yourself, right?
Business experts reiterate the importance of creating a persona for your business. A persona is the representation of your ideal customer for your business. Creating a persona before starting the business will ensure that you know your “customer” before you even get one. When building a start-up, you start by taking into consideration the person you are creating the business for.
The best way to know your customers is to first define who they are on your own terms.
What kind of customer do you (personally) like?
This is important because you will be interacting with these customers day in day out. You would not want to choose a persona that doesn’t fit your idea of the brand and your own values as a business owner, too.
Who will you serve?
It cannot be just “whoever wants to give me money”. You have more power over who is going to be your customer than you think you do.
And please don’t tell us “It’s everyone”. Because if you say that your business’s goal is to serve everyone, then the business will serve no one at all.
Think about the needs of a new parent versus the needs of a professional close to retirement versus the needs of a technology-crazed snap chatting-millennial. What products would interest them all? What type of marketing material would entice all of them?
Instead of trying too hard—or dying trying—to find out the intersection between these totally different markets, it is more beneficial to choose your target market and then, decide from there how could you serve them. To be successful, you must find a niche and that starts with choosing a targeted persona. Experts advise creating 3 to 5 personas to define your target market.
In generating a persona, you will create a fictional character with the attributes of the real people you want to be your customer. Are they single or with kids? How old are they? Do they like sports? Music? You can even define them as specific as you would want to. What websites do they frequent? Which bands do they support? How much money are they making?
This fictional character will be your guide. If you have decisions to make about the business, you could ask “Would my persona like this decision?”. When you are developing a product, you ask “Will my persona like this change? Will he care?”
This persona dictates where you have to pour your efforts into. How you create marketing materials, where you choose to locate your business, which social media platforms you prefer, and what type of imagery and branding you decide to utilize will depend on this persona.
Basically, who you are and what you do as a brand is who you attract!
Represent your brand using this persona.
So, what’s next?
You have now chosen the persona and developed the product/business around it. You know your customers precisely because you created them. You have launched the business and attracted your desired clients. Now that you have actual customers, it is time to respond to their needs!
2. Respond to Their Needs
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves”
– Steve Jobs, Apple
Customer service should not be just one department in your company. It should be a lifestyle and a permanent mission for your employees to serve your customer whenever they need something. Better yet, respond to their needs even before they need it.
Probably the most heard phrase in customer service is this- “The Customer is Always Right”. Isn’t that such a cliché? It’s said so many times that business owners and employees hear it as a saying than a fact.
I know why you may not agree with this. The truth is that customers are most often wrong and usually entitled. But you are failing to grasp what this phrase actually means.
The customer IS always right! Why?
The customer is always right NOT because they are perfect. The customer is always right not because you should make them happy so they keep on buying from you. The customer is always right not because they give you the money (though honestly, this is quite true, too). The customer is always right because the essence of your business should be based upon them. They are the people you are and should be, serving.
The customer is always right not because the business or its employees are wrong, but because the business and its employees should be about the customer and his needs. That is what that phrase means.
The customer is not always right for his benefit but for yours!
“Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.”
– Andrew Carnegie
This guy really could not be more right. If you could give value to your customers, then money and success will naturally chase you.
3. Relate to your Customers as People
Businesses nowadays often rely on statistical data to tell them what marketing strategy will work. Using these data, they interrupt users of the online space using targeted ads.
Don’t get us wrong. These are effective strategies. Tried and tested, you may even say. Yet, they are not the most sustainable, cost-effective, and personal approach startups should use.
Businesses fail to take into account that customers are human beings first before they are consumers and spending machines. And the natural thing about human beings is that they feel as much as they think, sometimes even more. They are people who need, appreciate, and value personal relationships more than pop-up ads and sponsored content.
As human beings who feel, they also base their consumption choices on relationships. Aside from the usual determinants of consumer spending like price, demand, supply, availability, quality, reviews, packaging, etc., the greatest factor why human beings buy a product is the products’ or the company’s ability to connect to them.
Relationships come from the root word “relate” which means making a connection.
Consumers consciously, continually consume products and companies that make a connection with them!
Building relationships with your customer base are actually more stress-free to do these days, with technology, social media, and the internet on our side. Your customers are just one email, call, private message and social media post away.
Relating and building lasting personal relationships with your customers is one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways to succeed in your startup.
4. Resolve Problems immediately
Problems are inevitable especially for startups whose business model is not yet tried and tested. There are failures along the way and customers will definitely get disappointed somehow.
While slip-ups can be prevented by hiring the right people, creating a solid business plan, and being prepared for the biggest challenges businesses face among others, believe us, it will still happen (!!!) — most likely when you least expect it!
The best thing to do whenever these unavoidable slip-ups happen is to resolve the problem immediately! Especially in today’s hyper-connected world, a small mishap could be published for everyone from Antarctica to Zimbabwe to see!
This could mean that your reputation, business, and future will be placed on the line because you failed at one thing.
Samsung learned the hard way. How hard? Around $10 billion hard. By not admitting their mishap, recalling, and rectifying the problem right away, they have caused more harm than good for the reputation (and revenue) of the company.
The galaxy definitely took note of this exploding phone. Today, Samsung seems to be having problems not just with this particular phone, but with the whole Samsung phone product line. Their remedy is to isolate the problem by compartmentalizing this as a single incident. They now say “Samsung Galaxy 7 is problematic” so they could avoid the general and more damaging “Samsung phones are problematic”.
Having great and lasting relationships with your customers actually solves this problem. Because when they have a relationship with you, they will feel comfortable enough to confront or tell you if and when you made a mistake. And once you learn about this, remember to resolve and rectify right away- unless you want them posting your unresolved blunder and poor customer satisfaction on social media.
So these are just some tips to better get to know your customers and make them happy and satisfied human beings.
Let us help more startups succeed through customer satisfaction!
In the comments below, answer the following questions:
If you are a business owner- As a business owner, what do you do to keep your customers happy? Have you used a persona too? Did it work well?
If you are a happy customer- Tell us about a brand/company/local business that gives you the most customer satisfaction. How do they do it?
About the author
Aichu Therese is a (20-something) freelancer, solo-preneur, and traveler of the world who loves writing about her freelance career, entrepreneur struggles, and travels. She realized that the best way to have enough time and freedom to live more while still having enough money to finance her explorations is through a work-from-wherever lifestyle as a digital nomad, freelance, and entrepreneur.
Her ultimate goal is to build a social enterprise making home items for travelers whose home is the whole world.