Modern Retail

Going the Extra Mile – the Importance of Getting to Know Your Customers

Get to Know Your Customers

Get to Know Your Customers Day is recognised on the third Thursday of each quarter. Its aim? To remind businesses to reach out to its customers to get to know them better. It goes without saying that customers are the most important aspect of a business, yet winning new customers and patrons is the easy step – it’s keeping them on-board for the long-run that can prove to be the hard part. A happy and strong customer relationship will ensure that your customers are committed to staying with you, and not jumping ship when a shiny new deal catches their eye. 

This can be a tricky balance to get right, so seven industry experts have shared their knowledge and advice with Modern Retail as to how businesses can go about getting to know their customers, and the importance of doing so.

So, why is it important?

If you think about it, how many businesses can honestly say that they really know and understand their customers? As Jon Lucas, co-founder of Hyve Managed Hosting comments, by saying, “‘really understanding’, we’re not talking about an annual customer survey or the occasional check-in – genuinely knowing your customers is about being able to anticipate their needs, solve their problems and help them to succeed. Obvious? Perhaps, but for just about every business, taking it seriously comes down to a conscious choice about how important customers are.”

Lucas continues, “Ultimately, any organisation of any size that wants to live by a strong customer service philosophy needs to make a commitment – both financially and culturally – to go the ‘extra mile’. The alternative would be a business that just ‘survives’ despite customer churn, thinks that winning new business is cheaper and easier than keeping customers really happy, and where reputation is ‘nice to have’, rather than a daily imperative.”

This is something that Mihir Shah, CEO of StorCentric, parent company of Drobo agrees with. He reveals that, “as businesses consider the technology advances they can make for 2020, many businesses are investing in technology to learn about customer spending behaviour and trends – all geared at learning more about what they want and what makes them buy it. But all too often, businesses make the mistake of focusing on the happy customers and the business growth, and ignore complaints, reviews and emails that highlight any difficulties.”

“In reality,” Shah continues, “customers are at the heart of most businesses and are crucial for company success; improving loyalty, customer service and experience can be the difference between a company that thrives and one that is lost in a crowded market. Knowing and understanding your customer is key to standing out from the competition. So if your organisation is looking to improve and innovate, then it is vital to embrace customer feedback and really take the time to know your customer.”

Putting customers at the centre of all business plans and ideas is something that Gregg Lalle, SVP International Sales at ConnectWise believes is important. So important, in fact, that he is encouraging and educating his company’s partners in how they can do it too. He explains: “As an organisation, ConnectWise has been educating our partners – MSPs and VARs – on how we have moved to the CX or ‘as a service’ model and how that is different than the traditional model. At the centre of this premise is that there needs to be constant customer engagement. Marketing tends to shift to ‘pull’ from ‘push’, sales focuses on positioning and delivering business outcomes, heavy leveraging of automation for ease of doing business and scalability, and customer success drives adoption and gathers data for future customer needs.

“Likewise, our partners need to engage their customers in the same way. They need to view their customer at the heart of every interaction and then measure (KPI) the effectiveness of their efforts.

“By taking a leadership role in this transformation and teaching our community what they need to do to prepare to engage their customers in a more meaningful way, we are seeing that they in turn are taking those lessons and teaching them to their customers so that they can increase the effectiveness of the overall customer experience.”

What ways can businesses improve customer relationships? 

As we’ve gathered, for any organisation it’s important to always validate the customer service part of the question – but what are the best ways to do this? Tom Needs, COO at Node4 believes that it’s vital to “keep pace with changing customer needs and preferences, pairing them with the best technology to champion the type of exceptional service that ensures a customer’s business stays successful.”

For some businesses, one way of doing this, Needs continues, “is to own the service level agreements (SLAs) and end-to-end infrastructure, because this gives partners and customers control, visibility, and better service levels. However, the most fundamental element is the customer relationship – knowledge of unique needs and preferences comes with constant engagement.” Essentially, Needs is saying that if you can “act on that knowledge to deliver a better service that works in line with the objectives of the customer, can anticipate their future needs AND do a first-class job should something go wrong, satisfaction is going to remain high.”

Additionally, as Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal comments, “the cloud has brought analytics back into the hands of business users, particularly in HR. In the ‘old days’, business analytics tools were shrouded in secrecy and owned by IT and MIS as part of the on-premise ERP system. Analytics are now part of our daily life, being used to enable insightful decision-making and to predict business outcomes. For example, the linking of workforce management data with training data allows manufacturers to predict workforce capacity planning issues in advance of a product launch, train employees prior to manufacturing demand or move shift patterns to meet demand.” Meeting demand equals happy customers – a win, win. 

However, this might not work for every business. As Jan van Vliet, VP and GM EMEA at Digital Guardian suggests, “for security analysts, spotting security incidents arising from within their company, which is arguably their own customer base, is particularly tricky because the attacker may have legitimate access.

“If the credentials being input are valid, the same alarms are not raised as when an unauthorised user attempts entry from the outside. Deploying data-aware cybersecurity solutions removes the risks around the insider threat because even if an adversary has legitimate access to data, they are prevented from copying, moving or deleting it. What’s important when it comes to insiders, in whatever guise, is to be able to detect malicious or suspicious activity and produce real-time, priority alerts that analysts know must be addressed immediately.”

Finally, Paul Zuidema, Managing Director EMEA at Ergotron believes that the key to customer happiness boils down to employee happiness. He says: “Knowing [customers] and anticipating their needs and preferences is key to business continuity. For us, employees working in desk-based, seated office environments are our end-user customers. As experts in designing and producing kinetic work environments, it’s important that we understand how to support their health and wellbeing while they’re at work, and promoting better physical and mental wellbeing through the use of the right ergonomic furniture, in the right kind of work environment. In a similar way, businesses would do well to also regard their employees as a type of internal customer base, providing the appropriate support and working conditions that will ultimately elevate their business bottom line.” 

When it comes to going the extra mile with your organisation, it’s worth beginning with your customer base. After all, unhappy customers will leave, and without customers there is no business.

Holly Worthington

Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.