Customer Value - First Contact
Have you ever wondered what your customer experiences? - You should!
What is customer value? We talk about it a lot in Lean speak. In simple terms, it is the product or service that you provide your customer, at a price they are happy to pay, on the day or time that they wanted it. This in fact, is how I think about it when I am wearing my ‘customer’ hat in my daily life. In this article, I would like to expand on this and explore some problem areas that businesses have in creating a valuable experience for customers whether a paid service or not.
Let us focus on, first contact. This is the part where you have made a first contact with a potential customer. They are not a customer yet and you are trying now to convince them you are worth doing business with. This happens in one of three ways; you meet them in person, you ‘cold call’ them, or they find you and contact you online or via phone. First contact, like first impressions is a big factor in whether customers feel comfortable in giving you, their business. Meeting in person is your best chance to give potential customers a glimpse of who you are, after all, you are standing right there in front of them. Depending on the setting (industry conference, chance meeting in an airport, or a community event), you are in control of how you engage and what experience you give the potential customer while trying to gain their trust and by extension, their business. Likewise, when you cold call, you are in control of the interaction with them to walk them through becoming a customer. The downside is, that you have potentially interrupted them, and they don’t really get to know you visually (unless using a video meeting service such as Zoom or Teams, etc.) The option that is more and more convenient for potential customers is finding you via online sources. Now, I am not referring to your online presence or SEO efforts so that you fall at the top of Google searches (although, that helps you get noticed). I do want to draw your attention to the experience your potential customer has in contacting you once they find you. This has become my new ‘pet-peeve’ as a consumer and customer of business processes.
To understand where I am going with this, I want you to think about a recent time where you were looking for a product or service and found two or three options you wanted to explore and then attempted to contact the supplier for more information or to make the purchase. Did the experience invoke any feelings of frustration? Anger? Maybe leading to giving up or, worse, leaving unpleasant comments on a review or social media page? We have all been here; voice mail hell, bounced from department to department, invited to ‘chat’ with an online representative that then needs us to explain everything from the beginning (sense my growing tension?). The point is this. Have you ever tried being a customer of your own products and services? Do you ask your employees to do the same? In many of our client engagements, employees have no idea what their customers are experiencing in trying to contact someone to help them in some way.
In our mission of engaging companies in continuous improvement and Lean thinking throughout all business processes, this area is often forgotten and yet it has huge impacts on customer experience, quote win rates, and ultimately, recurring business. We urge our customers to act, and experience the customer facing processes you have built. From website design to phone system menus to online interactions, do you give the kind of experience that instills confidence in your products and services? If you were a potential (or existing) customer, would you do business with your company? To be fair, you need to let go of any bias you have toward your company products and services. Look at it completely objectively as though you just became aware that your company exists. If you are too close to your ‘baby’ then have someone else do it. Be a secret shopper in your own organization. Be an undercover boss of sorts.
In the World of Lean thinking, providing better value for customers is a sure-fire way to beat your competition. Most companies are aware of the products and services they provide, review complaints, and share accolades from existing customers but, how many customers never engaged, or got frustrated, and gave up? Although you may never know, you can improve your touch points to give potential customers the type of experience you want for all your customers. Chances are, if you and the employees the operate the system love how they feel while navigating it, your customers will too.
We offer you success in your Lean Journey!
Author - Chad Metcalf
Chad is President and founder of Value Stream Solutions Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in teaching and implementing Lean Thinking into businesses of all types and sizes. Covering coast to coast and the USA, our mission is to strengthen manufacturing capabilities and communities. To engage in the conversation, connect with Chad through www.valuestreamsolutions.com, comment on this article, or communicate directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.