Businesses that innovate survive. Technology enables efficient processes and provides what every management team craves – a single, reliable version of the truth.

The world is changing and our customer’s demands and needs are changing too. Sustainability is now a core value that has taken hold in sectors across the economy.

Traditional ways of working do not support these changes and, as with all change, it is companies who stay ahead of curve that will prosper.

Accessing reliable information and having one version of the truth is critical to understand and manage the demands on your business.

Customers and competitors demand more

Impatient customers, eager for a personalised service, won’t wait around whilst your team figures out which spreadsheet their information is saved in.

They won’t wait around while you get your sales system to talk to your production system. And they won’t wait around while you dig out the folder that holds their spare parts list.

But customers will stick around for quality. They will stick around if they get a prompt service and if they’re kept informed and educated.

And they’ll stick around if they don’t have to think about the minutiae, because you’ve got it covered.

Meanwhile competition is fierce. They’re making better products, that last for longer and give more value. Planned obsolescence is now prolonged resilience. Customers demand it.

It feels like somebody out there is ready to eat your lunch, if you give them the chance. One little chink of light, and they’re in.

How fit is your company for the coming year? As the New Year approaches now is a good time to look at your vision, strategy and team operations to see what you might improve.

5 questions to help you shape your vision

A few moment of honest reflection on these questions can help you understand where your business is, and where it could be.

  1. Who are you, where are you going, why do you exist?
  2. What does utopia look like for your business?
  3. What do your customers want? How are their needs changing?
  4. How should you design your business to serve these needs?
  5. How far can you go?

Deciding on where you’re going is a simple enough idea, and its something your team can develop together, and then get behind.

Can your team deliver your strategy?

Strategy comes from vision. What skills do you need to achieve this vision? Which do you lack? Different people will own parts of your strategy. An honest review of the abilities and gaps in your team will reveal a primary objective.

Get the right skills on board to achieve the vision. Train up, or recruit in. Mentorship, Non-executive directors, there are various ways to develop. But focus on the key skills you need now to get your strategy started.

How does your team operate?

A team focused on a common goal, needs a common language. Here are some essential facts everyone in your company should know:

  1. What your business is, how you make money, what your biggest costs are
  2. What you sell
  3. Who your customers are segments, roles, functions.

Share this language across the business.

In addition, consider the following questions about how you operate:

  1. How do you actually do things?
  2. Where are the problems?
  3. What frustrates customers?
  4. What slows the business down?
  5. Where do you waste time and resources?
  6. How do you measure performance?

Has thinking about your business made you want to improve how you manage it? Read our articles below to see how you can apply your new insights in 2015.

Want to know how Flowlens can help you improve your business efficiency? Download our ebook on How to improve your processes and reduce waste.

Did you know that its 6-7 times more expensive to find new customers than sell to existing customers? How can you start to change your customer culture?

Encounter a business that doesn’t think ‘customer first’ and its usually a demoralising experience. Being told you can’t do something that seems simple, or ‘you can only get that over the phone’. These organisations have lost touch with their purpose, to deliver service and value, and to help their customers achieve their goals.

On the flipside, customer-centric organisations understand their customers’ goals, and structure themselves to ensure those goals are achieved. Their people have a ‘yes we can’ attitude towards problem solving, instead of looking for excuses or arcane rules to avoid helping out.

The Value of a Customer

Did you know that its 6-7 times more expensive* to find new customers than sell to existing customers? This presents a huge opportunity for upselling, cross-selling and generating referrals by encouraging stronger customer relationships. How can you start to change your customer service culture?

Listen to your Customers

Your customers are a rich source of information that can help you improve your products and/or service, yet how often do you ask for feedback or listen to comments in social channels? Gaining feedback could be as simple as inviting key clients for a coffee, but here are a few other ideas:

  • Make a list of your 10% most profitable customers, and ask them what you do well, and what you could improve upon?
  • Make a list of the 10% least profitable customers, and ask them why they don’t buy more from you, do they know about all your products and services
  • Examine customer support requests for patterns, and determine how quickly customers get a response
  • Create an online survey and circulate amongst customers
  • Ask for feedback on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn

Streamline Failing Processes

We often find that business processes that were once fit for purpose are no longer appropriate or effective. In conjunction with customer feedback, it can be easy to identify processes that cause frustration for customers, or even discourage them from buying more.

You don’t need to transform the entire business on day one, that’s unrealistic, but you can identify major problems and quick wins with some basic research:

  • Make a list of all the people, departments, processes that impact on the customer experience. Look for bottlenecks and information silos that can cause delays or confusion for the customer.
  • Cross-reference these with customer feedback and determine which processes are causing the most problems.
  • Show early intent by taking action to resolve the most frustrating problems. Ideally you will streamline the processes in order to profitably deliver what the customer wants.
  • Devise a roadmap for change based on your complete findings.

Help Customers to Help Themselves

Today, many customers don’t want to waste time waiting for information. Put them in control by offering online access to information and services about their relationship with your company. Whether its service or maintenance information, asset tracking, training content, analytics, or anything else you can automate and deliver electronically, you’ll save them time and money, and create goodwill.

Again, refer to customer feedback to understand what information is useful and important to them, and examine internal workloads to understand where repetitive, manual service requests can be automated.

Bonus tip, don’t be afraid to fire your customers.

Sometimes you can’t please all of the people all of the time. When reflecting on negative customer feedback, or unprofitable relationships, consider whether your company vision is still compatible.

The benefits of ‘firing’ customers include:

  • Releasing resource to deal with profitable customers
  • Removing the distraction of non-core or legacy services
  • Avoiding negative word of mouth
  • Creating a positive outcome by referring the customer to a provider who fits their needs

Our customer lifecyle management solution, Flowlens, can help you become more customer-centric, and align your team on that vision. To learn about how Flowlens can help your business become more customer-centric, please contact us, or call +44 2890 998597 to arrange a no-obligation consultation.