“The customer is always right.” It’s a mantra parents teach their children, especially when they experience poor customer service. It’s a concept business students learn in school. Above all, it’s a mindset that infuses every corner of the business world.
Every company has customers — and if they’re not happy, no one’s happy.
Here’s the thing, though. What does the phrase actually mean? It’s a question I’ve been mulling over. What does it mean for the customer to be “right”? Obviously, if a customer asks for free items or starts disrespecting other customers, you’re going to say that at that moment, they aren’t right.
So what is the nuanced truth behind the age-old saying, then?
I think it refers to a set of guiding principles that all focus on one thing: the customer’s needs. Not their wants. Their needs.
To put it another way, the inherent, inarguable needs of your customers are the gold standard that point your business in the right direction.
To demonstrate, let’s take a look at several points along the business and customer journeys and consider how prioritizing customers’ needs at each point can lead to success.
1. Letting Customers’ Needs Guide Your R&D
It all starts with R&D. Research and development is ground zero for customer needs.
When an entrepreneur or R&D team sits down to brainstorm a new product or service, the first thing they consider is the needs of their target audiences.
It’s easy to let personal experience and interests or external circumstances influence the development of a new offering. But at the end of the day, every single thing you create must clearly and effectively answer your customers’ needs. If it doesn’t, your good ideas will remain just that: unfulfilled ideas.
2. Letting Customers’ Needs Help You Evolve
The concept of customers’ needs guiding a business’s R&D efforts goes further than the initial creation of a new product or service. It should continue to influence how you develop, improve, and update your offerings over time, too.
A good example of this is the crowdsourced transport service CitizenShipper. The service started as a simple way to connect approved drivers with those who needed items or pets transported from point A to point B. It was a simple enough idea, and the service delivered in spades.
However, as the software tool became more popular, the company found that its platform wasn’t enough to meet the needs of its target audience, namely those trying to move things from one place to the next. To make this process easier, app users needed more rideshare-like capabilities.
Hearing this need, the startup took action. It added a suite of additional features to its tool, including driver profiles and messaging capabilities. CitizenShipper also added $1,000 pet protection insurance to all transports, 24/7 tele-vet access during the trip and driver ID verifications to give their customers peace of mind. The upgrade met the customers’ needs in a more direct manner than its previous tool. This enabled the company to both retain and gain new customers.
Letting customers’ needs influence initial R&D is a critical part of long-term success. But keeping that mindset over the months and years that you continue to create and improve those products and services is equally important.
3. Letting Customers’ Needs Inform Marketing and Sales
Infusing your products and services with elements that meet customer needs is a well-known business activity. But the focus needs to continue when you shift from product development to marketing and selling.
When you create marketing and sales content, you need to keep in mind who it is that you’re selling to. E-commerce website company BigCommerce points out that even with something as simple and straightforward as product descriptions, it’s important to be aware of the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Most of these questions pertain to customer needs. Who is the product for? Why is it better than other products? How does it work? When should it be used?
The same goes for sales. A salesperson needs to know how they can relate not just to a prospect but to their needs. Each rep should have intimate knowledge of why your customers need your product or service.
As you compose content, whether it’s for a description, a sales pitch or a billboard, you want to target every word to communicate that you understand your customers’ needs. You know their pain points, and you’ve created your product specifically to address those concerns.
4. Letting Customers’ Needs Equip Customer Service
Your customers’ collective needs also influence the final point in the customer journey: customer service and support. As automation and software tend to an increasing number of simple customer inquiries, human customer service interactions are becoming more nuanced.
This means you should equip your customer service team with the best training and knowledge to help reps answer an increasingly complex number of issues. Harvard Business Review points out that collaboration through network-judgment climates (i.e., contact centers where reps are able to interact with each other to find the best answers) is an effective modern form of customer support.
This more complex customer service option requires intimate knowledge of customers’ needs. You can gather this via feedback from customer surveys and reviews. Equipping your customer service team with a detailed understanding of your customers’ needs allows you to create efficient and effective support that leads to happy customers.
Taking a Holistic Approach to Customers’ Needs
Your customers’ needs aren’t just an element you should be aware of as you run your business. They should impact every facet of your operation.
If you serve any client or customer in any industry with any product or service, you should always have your finger on the pulse of customers’ needs. Because when those needs are top of mind, you can always deliver the best possible solutions, no matter what the situation is.
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