Grow Your Business By Simplifying Customer Relationships

Not too long ago I had an online account that I wanted to cancel. It was one I had not used for a year - and yet was still paying for. (The beauty of auto-billing, right?). As I went to this company's website to cancel my service I had to invest 15 minutes to find where on  the site I could go to simply cancel. They hid the "delete my account" button as best they could. As a customer, guess how that made me feel? Like they were tricking me into keeping an account. Hmmmm. A company I want to continue to do business with? Heck no! How about a company I dislike - and one I will tell others about. Way to destroy a relationship, guys!

We all want our sales to increase. But sometimes we make it hard for someone to find out/discovery process about us and our products, actually buy, get delivery, even cancel a service, etc. Why? Are we hiding info from competitors? Are we trying to force customers to engage with us in a way that we want them to, not the way they want to? Answer? Yes. 

I argue that a better way to grow your business is not through trickery and complexity but instead through clarity and simplicity.

So what are some areas that you should look at? First begin by mapping the various interaction points you have with customers – from the point they discover you to the point where they cease their relationship with you. List out each of these points. Each point is an area that you can look at to see if you can make it easier. So let's look at some of these relationship phases and highlight some areas to simplify:

Awareness

These are the ways that customers (or really potential customers) first become aware of your existence. Typically these points are related to marketing and branding. It includes the obvious - your advertising, your website, your social media presence, blogs, podcasts, or review sites (like Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.). It also might involve some other, perhaps less-recognizable, points like your community involvement, your public speaking, your published articles.

Another impactful way prospective customers find out about you is from others they know – either positively or negatively.

These are those first impressions that a prospective customer might have. While you can’t control this entire process you should be thinking about how clearly your message is getting delivered. Does your brand accurately convey what you want it to?

Discovery

The discovery process is really the first concrete part of the relationship with a prospective customer. They have formed an initial opinion of you and decided to research further. It’s an investigative or research process. They are trying to understand what you provide and whether you can fill the needs they have.

Again, you should be looking for clarity of message. But also you should look at the ways in which you share information. Is product/service information easy to find? Is it easy to understand? Is it transparent and honest?

Choice

At this point prospective customers are making a decision. It’s extremely important that it’s easy to communicate with you. The key ways to make these interactions simpler is to ensure that your company is available to answer any last-minute questions in a clear, complete, timely, and honest way.

And what if they do NOT choose your company? Be gracious. Be respectful. Have a way to maintain the relationship. When possible, ask how they made their decision – and how you could have improved the experience. No one likes disappointing others; and they know they are disappointing you. But the more you can react gracefully, the better. Show understanding and respect.

Launch

Supposing the prospective customer has chosen to become an actual customer. Yay! Make the transition with as few steps as possible. How easy is it to make that transition from prospect to buyer? How easy is your customer/account-setup process? Do you communicate very clearly at this stage? Do they know whom to contact for any issue that may arise? Is this transition fast, simple, and accurate? What do I mean by “accurate”? Any estimates or agreements you have made must accurately be handed-off from your salespeople to your internal people.

Engagement

Let the relationship begin. I have never seen a relationship in which customer communication isn’t paramount. Customers always want to feel like they are informed – even proactively when possible. Never let customers wonder. Did you get my order? Did you get it right? Where does the process stand? Is it what I expected? Who do I talk to if I have any questions?

Show them some love. Show them that you’re excited about the relationship. Thank them for their choice. Always reinforce that the now-customer has made the right decision.

In Process

There are tons of customer interactions during the relationship. Look in great depth at ways to make each of these processes simple and clear.

  • Options. Simple order placement.
  • As they requested – time, method, etc.
  • Financial terms. Easy to understand. Easy to arrange.
  • Invoicing/billing/payment. Accuracy, clarity.
  • Customer service/inquiries. Timely. Transparent. Easy to do. Open communication.

Endpoint

Put yourself in a customer’s shoes. Have you ever tried to cancel an account or stop a business relationship? How do you feel if the other party makes this more painful than it needs to be? Frustrated. Annoyed. Angry. When the customer relationship is over (end they will all end at some point), it doesn’t benefit you to make it a difficult, drawn-out process. Maintain a respectful, understanding stance. Don’t hide the method they should follow to bring the relationship to a conclusion.

Early on you worked hard to reinforce their decision to work with you. Don’t reinforce their decision to stop working with you.

ONE FINAL POINT

Before I conclude this post, I have to touch on an idea that is incredibly simple and obvious; but for some reason it’s something that often gets overlooked. When trying to identify ways to make the relationship between you and your prospects and/or customers simpler you should start by actually asking them questions.

Very often we try to guess (or just use intuition with trial and error). Wouldn’t it just be better to ask them directly? Of course it would. And a lot of customers would be happy to point out ways you can make things easier. They will truly appreciate your interest and your desire to make things easier.

Some questions you can ask:

  • How important is the decision to buy your product or service to their success?
  • How do they go about making purchases like those they make from you?
  • How do they know what their needs/requirement are?
  • How do they identify their options?
  • How do they make their decisions?
  • What would an ideal discovery/research process look like?
  • How can you make working together easier?
  • How can you make this more of a cooperative, creative, positive partnership vs. antagonistic?

We all want to make customer (and prospective customer) relationships grow. And one of the best ways to do this is to engage in clear, simple, customer-focused ways of doing business. Too often, whether we’re trying to save money or save time (or sometimes be sneaky), this is not the case. Ask yourself if your customer interfaces are designed around you or them. Are they as simple, clear, and transparent as they can be? If not, look again and proactively make changes that will enable your business to grow. Simplicity is the key. Removing complex, hard to understand steps will make this happen. Always be looking for ways to smooth out your customer relationships – at ALL points.

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I would love to help you make your business thrive. I help organizations gain clarity and confidence around a long-term direction and design their business around customer-oriented processes. I know it’s hard. So, if you think I can help your organization, feel free to reach out and get in touch. If you think you might need or want some help with all or a part of that process, call me or us our CONTACT US page. I’d be happy to chat with you and explore whether I can help. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore the idea a little.

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