Always listen to your customer
Listening whether you are in a small prosperous town like Valparaiso Indiana or a big city like Chicago Illinois listening is the most important trait any company BIG or small can do to be successful in their endeavors. Often a company will think that it’s their way or the highway. They might state publicly it’s all about the customer but the actions dictate and say otherwise. If you’ve been reading our blog and several hundred of you are you now that JM2, my company, is run by humans. Yes, we are inferior beings in that we make mistakes. What makes JM2 different though is our agile philosophy on life where we are quick to adapt and change based on both positive and negative feedback we receive from current and past customers.
The biggest complaint we have ever had was in communication. A client might state they want to hear from us weekly but really only wanted to be heard from quarterly. You have the other extreme where they state monthly but they deep down needed a lot more hand holding and weekly would’ve been best for them. This is where we have failed and faulted. That is all about to change and it’s changing based on our listening.
Let’s first look at the “problem” which is truly a communications problem. Business is like a marriage. If one side communicates and the other doesn’t listen a divorce is certain to happen. If one side communicates and the other side misinterprets a divorce will be on the horizon. If one side (or both) refuse to talk you know that marriage will end in a divorce. We are all different beings on the planet and we all think and act differently.
The communications problem
- Not changing communication when the client really needed something different
- Communicating only in email, in-person, or verbally when a different method should’ve been used (or multiple methods)
- Too few meetings
- Too many meetings
The communications fix
The fix every business will state is to get a dedicated customer service team. Well, we have that. The problem is they also do other tasks (like what is requested in the meetings). The team ultimately was being spread too thin and not able to respond fast enough. I am the extreme of the problem where in any given week I was sitting in a minimum 30 hours of meetings. That doesn’t leave a lot of time even when you work 50-60-hour weeks.
In talking with the team, they didn’t see the problem as much as I did as I was talking with clients that were willing to communicate. Many clients just kept quiet which is a sure sign something is wrong for many but also perfectly fine for another group. Being married to one person is hard enough. When you have hundreds of business relationships you are certain to not understand all of their thought processes. This is where having someone solely dedicated to talking to, documenting, assigning, validating, and then communicating back to the customer is critical.
There are two ways to fix this. Being I see myself as humble, wanting that “Leave It To Beaver” mentality of working your butt off and “earning” it rather than giving myself a pay raise for all the sales that I do I opted to hire a person that would easily free up over twenty (hopefully thirty) hours of weekly meetings. By choosing this business solution we would be able to let someone with a true passion for communicating and relaying information back and forth with our client. The team would be out of less meetings and able to solve problems faster.
The other changes to fix this we are implementing:
- Our new project coordinator will be in all meetings
- Team members will rarely be in these meetings (there's always exceptions)
- During the meeting "Tasks" will be entered and immediately assigned to the team
- All information will be immediately available to clients through our client portal (they have this today but many don't realize it)
- A clear and concise message will be provided and communicated to each month and push for meetings to keep solid communication
- I will be meeting weekly with the project coordinator and we will discuss things that are working, not-working, and outline ways to improve the overall processes internally as well as our current and future clients.
In the end, our clients will be getting better customer service, be able to get what they need for their unique business processes faster, and we will be able to provide more training and growth opportunities for our clients. Based on all these new and as I see it great things we will have more than doubled the capabilities of our company by making one strategic change that no other web design and marketing company in Northwest Indiana has. I know of several marketing companies that have this role in their organization, who I’ve talked with, and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The problem is they focus solely on marketing and outsource their web design. I know this as we are their web designers. Even for them we will now be able to churn out products in half the time with more time spent on the quality control aspects we’ve always wanted to.
When it comes to any business you will either evolve and prosper because you’ve listened to your customer or you will whither and die as you think it’s your way or the highway. Be humble and make your business grow by listening, doing what’s right, and work on providing the best experience possible.
For myself I am more excited to be helping our customers by writing the business solutions they need in half the time that it used to take which also means a lot less stress in my life. This also opens new doors and capabilities the entire team will be providing for a more enhanced customer experience. I am now setting our own internal goals beyond our minimum of a 20% growth to 25% year-over-year growth with this new increase in client communication.