General BusinessNews & Opinion

The secret to Uber’s success

Your customers have the answers!

Why don’t you ask them?

It blows me away how many times a young, bright-eyed entrepreneur bursts through my door to excitedly explain their revolutionary idea, only to admit that they haven’t engaged with their intended market yet.  So, how do they know that anyone wants what they have?  It’s a no-brainer they explain….Well, maybe it is.  Sorry to interrupt your dream, but why don’t we ask them, just in case?

This is precisely the reason that big companies spend big money on focus groups.  Imagine rolling a sandwich shop that sells Vegemite sandwiches. They might be the best Vegemite sandwiches this side of the bridge, but if people want to eat sweet-chilli chicken wraps, then the ‘no-brainer’ is more like ‘no brains’.

And it’s not just entrepreneurs that need to engage with their customers.  Well-established businesses in well-established industries have just as much to learn.

Take the taxi industry, for example.  Uber are killing them.  Why?  Because they are giving the customer what they want – greater access, easier access, cleaner cars, better reporting and better pricing.  Now, irrespective of whether it’s a level playing field (the taxi industry is heavily regulated and burdened with the associated costs) you can’t help but be impressed how well the Uber model responds to what the customer wants.

Still not convinced? Then what about this:

  • We conducted a Client Advisory Board (“CAB”) for a client in the uniform industry. A number of major customers had stopped buying from them and they didn’t know why.  It was quite simple, really.  The new shirts coming out of China had a short tail on them.  Every time the wearer bent over, out popped their bum!  So, these customers sought out shirts with longer tails.  But no-one told the client why they went elsewhere, they just went.
  • We conducted a CAB for a client in the financial planning industry. A former customer explained that they were now at another firm and paying literally twice as much.  Why?  Because they offered a fee-for-service arrangement and that made the client feel comfortable that their advice was always driven by his best interests, not by a hard to fathom commission structure.

In both cases, the clients found out that their customers were actually prepared to stay/come back and actually prepared to pay more, if only the product or service more closely matched their needs.  But the clients only knew this because, in the end, they asked!  Both were easy fixes that flowed straight to the bottom line!

So, tell me, when was the last time that you formally engaged with your customers?  How many of your current customers are suffering in silence but right now, even as you read this article, harbouring plans, maybe even actively canvassing options to take their business elsewhere?  How many feel neglected and that they don’t have any mechanism to provide formal feedback?

The value of a CAB doesn’t stop there.  It’s equally as interesting to find out what your customers love about you.  And it’s very rewarding to stop and consider – of all of their available options, they have chosen you!

If you can unlock the reasons why they made that choice, it might be reasonable to expect that other potential customers out there would make the same choice if only they knew about that particular feature of your product or service.  Now you know what to highlight in your marketing!

It’s a pretty simple proposition really – just give them what they want.  And if you want to know what they want, the best way to find out is to ask them.

One thing that surprises many of you is just how willing your customers are to get involved.  But it shouldn’t come as a surprise – after all, they are human.  When someone asks for help, what is your natural reaction?

Whilst human beings often make choices based on emotion, we are programmed to justify those choices on a rational basis and participating in a CAB, helping to shape the product or service to exactly meet their utilitarian needs is an excellent way to achieve that rational justification.

So, another interesting thing happens after a CAB.  All of the participants suddenly become advocates for your business.  They know you care and they know you listen and they feel a bit of ‘ownership’ over how you do what you do.  So, now they are happy to refer other customers to you.  When others climb on board, it further justifies their own decision.  See what I mean?

If you haven’t engaged with your customers in the past 12 months, it’s probably time you did.  Give me a call on 1300 656 141 to get the ball rolling.  You’ll be glad you did.


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Neil Parker
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