I was recently asked to be a panelist at a Town Hall meeting by one of our legal services business partners. This was a rare treat and opportunity for me to step outside of my hectic day-to-day life focused on serving my clients and to just be “the customer.”
And while I certainly enjoyed the rock-star treatment that I received—trip to another city, wining and dining, meeting members of the Board of Directors, and knowing that they cared about my opinion—it was networking with the other panelists, the inside look into our partner’s business, the ability to meet team members from across the organization, and the sneak peak at upcoming ad campaigns and products that made the trip worthwhile. I left the experience with a greater understanding of my partner’s depth of services and how they could better help me meet my mission and my firm reach its goals.
But more importantly, what my business partner received was valuable insight into how its customers use their products and services, how well we understand their full product and services suite, and our strategies for conquering the challenging legal market. Team members were able to ask questions and react to the information that we were providing in real time. They were able to hear both the good and the bad, that we love the products but are sometimes too busy to learn to use them effectively, where we need additional support, and opportunities to provide new products and services based on our strategic plans.
Regardless of size, every business can benefit from this type of information and an open dialogue with customers. And, although nice if you can afford it, it is not necessary to jet your customers around the country to obtain this feedback. Following are three economical ways to get feedback from your customers and to open an honest dialogue with them:
- SURVEYS. There are many low cost options available to get honest feedback from all or a broad swath of your customer base. The web offers many articles on how to craft questions and low-cost survey providers make it economical to touch a large number of customers. Be careful though, don’t fatigue your customers by over-communicating. Plan your survey contacts within your larger customer contact stream. Make the touch natural—reach out after a purchase, around an event or holiday, or after a customer has been dormant for some time.
- HOSTED EVENTS. Use an event to give a little to get a lot. Host a series of customer insights luncheons. Host different segments of your customer base—biggest, emerging, prospects—at each lunch. Be honest about the purpose of the lunch, be open to the attendees opinions (good and bad), and provide each participant with a thank you gift for their time. Plan to host one lunch every three or four months.
- PERSONAL VISITS. Take the time to personally visit your clients. Spend as much time as you can learning about what they do and how they use your product and services. By spending time with them you will gain valuable insights without putting your customers on the spot. Set a goal to visit one customer a month.
Regardless of the method you use, making an effort to engage your customers will not only provide valuable insight but will also help build stronger relationships with your customers.
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