For business owners, there is a lot of software out there to consider. Some of it is useful—necessary, even. Some of it is highly specialized for particular types of businesses or business functions. And then some of it is irrelevant and probably a waste of time and money when all is said and done.
Often, software that falls in the latter category will promise things like “streamlining business functions,” “driving revenue,” “improving lead generation,” among other benefits. These are all perfectly reasonable objectives for any business to have, but business owners must always think critically about how a piece of software will help them achieve those goals. A helpful trick when evaluating software is to consider who or what is the most important aspect of your business. Without knowing anything about your particular business, I can say with a high degree of certainty that the most crucial part of your business is your customers.
How did you find this article? (check all that apply)
e) Other (please explain)
So ask yourself not what your software can do for you, but what your software can do for your customers. If your customers are happy, your business will benefit as a result. It seems obvious, but it’s amazing how easy it can be to forget.
For example, data and analytics are highly touted software features these days, and justifiably so. The more you know about your customers, the theory goes, the better you can “segment” and “target” them. Of course, this is true; data-driven marketing and customer service can be highly effective at improving customer satisfaction as well as sales. But the cost of obtaining the data must be considered along with the benefits.
After reading this far, do you believe this article is relevant to you?
c) Not sure
People don’t usually like handing over more information than is required to make a purchase. For one, it takes time, which seems to be in shorter supply these days. It can also feel intrusive and, at it’s worst, disrespectful. A company has just gained you as a customer, and it’s already asking for more?
When people are bombarded with questions, surveys, and info boxes, they feel less like a person and more like a statistic. It’s an unsettling feeling, and when you have so many questions to answer, you also have plenty of time to reconsider your decision to make a purchase.
Are you getting annoyed by these questions interrupting your reading?
c) Not sure
Of course, you could also collect customer data that you don’t ask for. What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right? Well, for certain data this is true. Paying attention to popular times to buy, who likes what, and seasonal sales patterns are all reasonable and effective ways to manage inventory and inform marketing strategy. But for more personal data, it’s always best to be transparent with customers. Give them the opportunity to deny you permission to, say, track their location. They might just be OK with it, and even if they aren’t, they’ll be thankful that you asked. Respecting the customer is the first step toward earning customer loyalty.
The most important question you should ever be asking is this: Did the customer enjoy their experience? That includes both their experience with your product or service, as well as their experience reserving, buying, and consuming what you’re selling. But do not explicitly ask the customer. Ask yourself. If you can’t tell, the answer is either “no” or “not enough,” because when customers enjoy products and services, you’ll see them more often, you’ll start receiving referrals, and you’ll notice people having positive conversations about your business online.
Treat your customers with respect, and they will reciprocate in ways that directly benefit your business. No software can do that for you.
Photo by Sam Hood, courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales, via Flickr