What your Customer Wants in 2017

If you're looking for a profound winner-take-all statement that will change the way you run your business, it isn't here. In fact, if you think such a statement exists, you may want to re-evaluate your thought process. 

THERE ARE 3 FUNDAMENTALS THAT CUSTOMERS WANT IN 2017 (AND SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME...DUH)

They shouldn't be new to you because they are the same as they have been since the birth of economics. Notice how I didn't say "modern" economics. These are truths that have been realized since a caveman whacked a saber-tooth squirrel and wanted to trade it to his cave-mate for a sharp stick to whack more saber-tooth squirrels to trade to other cavemen for more stuff to build his squirrel hunting outfitter business. 

1. Price - This includes markup compared to competitors, how much/which line items you're willing to eat or waive, gouging, frequency of price increases, etc.

2. Quality - This one encompasses quite a bit. The Quality Fundamental goes beyond QC to the customer experience, their perception, your attitude, how well you service customers' needs, etc.

3. Speed - Is your turn time better, the same, or worse than competitors? Can you turn around a simple versus complex product or service in the same amount of time? Can you scale up during a busy season at which point you aren't effecting your customers' workflow?

 

Here is the profound part, if any exist: 

CUSTOMERS EXPECT YOU TO HIT 2 OF THE 3 FUNDAMENTALS. 

If you're covering 3, congratulations, you have set yourself apart. If only 1, prepare for your demise. Unfortunately, I'm from a tourist town that relies heavily on traditions and nostalgia, literally none of the fundamentals. I say unfortunately because as clients die, as in heart-stops-beating die, so does the profitability of those businesses. They rely on a customer's whimsical perception that was formulated by a emotional relationship to days-of-old or a particularly relaxing vacation, not reality. 

Like algebra, all parts must exist in the equation. A+B=C or C-B=A, they look different but both are true. 

Speed and Quality - Customers expect to pay a premium (price)

Speed and Price - Customers expectations are lowered (quality)

Price and Quality - Customers expect turn times to be slower (speed)

HOW CAN YOU WIN IF YOU'RE A 1 FUNDAMENTAL BUSINESS?

This is going to hurt...

You will never win as a 1 hit wonder. You may grow quickly and sustain for a while but the inevitable plateau will be quickly reached. At which point a sprinkle of apathy, a hint of laziness, or a squirt of mistakes will bring your empire to its knees. Ask yourself, if a vendor was giving you a great price but the quality was terrible and turn times were inconsistent at best, what would stop you from entertaining the next salesperson who walked through the door? And yes, that example works with any 1 hit wonder. 

GET CREATIVE, INNOVATIVE

What are some simple steps you can take to build a 2nd or 3rd fundamental? Innovation is commonly misconstrued as breakthrough technology but it can be as simple as adding a Keurig to your lobby. Great salesmen who work for crappy companies have been slinging donuts into the mouths of customers for years, think that's a coincidence? That's an innovation, albeit an old and dated one. 

My prices are jacked up and our quality is bad but the turn times are great. Here, have a donut so your perception of our company is service-based and that we are willing to spend $3.49 on donuts for you.
— Every Salesman Ever

One of many reasons why I love working here is because we have a quick meeting every morning to map out the day's workflow and take a, sometimes difficult, look at what we can do today to build one or two of our fundamentals. Even the meeting itself has increased the quality fundamental. When we're on the same page, mistakes decrease and productivity increases. The more productive we are, the quicker our turn times which open production to allot for new business and further service existing accounts. In other words, a 5 to 10 minute chat has led to a dynamic shift and we're able to knock out more tasks in less time with better processes. This is what a great operation looks like and I'm ecstatic to be a part of it. Ask yourself what small step can you take today to improve one of the fundamentals, then win.

Tim Doerfler