Our Customers

To recognise the problem is more important than to find the solution because a precise definition of a problem leads automatically to an appropriate solution. Albert Einstein

 It is not important what we think about our customers and their needs. It is not important what the customers write to us in the questionnaires or tell us during open days. The only important thing is what the customers will do in the end – if they will decide to buy our product or service.

Once I took part in a conference about marketing and I was shocked. All of them were speaking about how they organise the pursuit for customers, how they bomb them every day with advertising and information, how they compel them to purchase things they do not need.

If I were to choose a word which is the most important one for our lives and doing business – it would be the word “listen”. To listen to the signals brought by our lives, to listen to people in our surroundings, to listen to the voice of our conscience deep inside us, the voice that tells us what our mission in this world is.  Instead of listening we often talk, scream and shout each other down. We think we understand everything, we underestimate our customers, we speak for them but we do not know their real language at all. A common source of failure is that success which brings hubris which removes our ability to listen.

zakaznici

The businessman, development specialist or marketing employee – all of them think that they know best what the customer wants.

However, the customers themselves also frequently do not know how to define their needs. We have to know thoroughly their work and the parameters it is measured by. The customers do not buy a drill but a bore from us.

The word “listen” is the basis of leadership. To listen to our inner voice, to our fellow workers, customers. It means to replace our pride with humility, shouting with silence and our words with the words of our customers. To listen to the customers means to learn their language, to understand their problems and to have a chance to give them more than the competitors.

Every businessman tries to have satisfied customers. It is good to have satisfied customers, however, it is much better to have excited clients who tell stories about you, establish fan clubs and discuss you on the internet. Do you know of anyone else who can be a better source of your business success than a satisfied customer? A dissatisfied customer or a non-customer? A non-customer is a client who we do not provide services to because he/she does not know of our offer or rejects it. A dissatisfied customer is a client who expresses his/her objections to our product, service or the method of providing our activities. The dissatisfied customers offer us two opportunities at the same time – information about what we can improve on or innovate, and also the opportunity to solve the situation in such a way that they will become our enthusiasts.

Don’t explain to the dissatisfied customers that they are not right. Listen to them, and convert their anger and dissatisfaction into a positive relationship. Have a look at the doctors or nurses how sensitively they respond to criticism. However, the patient has more reasons to be sensitive than a doctor – a professional. Don’t let’s forget that the customer needn’t be a professional in our field of work and does not speak our language. We are those who have to learn the language of the customers, we have to be patient and generous. Let’s keep in mind that listening – and angry customers – are the best business opportunities.

The customer has needs and the money for their fulfilment. At the end of this chapter we will also be speaking about such customers who do not have the money. However, our primary market is created by customers who have needs and the money. We can classify them as follows:

1. Those clients who are served by us.

2. Those clients who are served by others – by our direct or indirect competitors.

3. Those clients who are not served by anybody.

We usually view the market through the following criteria:

1. The countries, regions – language, culture, laws, distribution and service,

2. The applications – various requirements during the purchasing process and usage of our products or service – e.g. the purchaser, investor, designer, user, maintenance worker, etc.

3. The price and properties of the products and services – luxury and bonus products, middle class, low-cost segments, etc.

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What do you know about the market you operate in? How is it segmented? Who are your customers? What sort of people are they, what are they doing and what are their needs? And what about the markets you are not doing business in? And the customers who do not know you or those whose requirements have not been fulfilled by anybody so far? The world is full of problems, things which do not work properly and people whose needs are not met. The world is full of opportunities to be useful.

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Have a thorough look at the market you are doing your business in and define its segments and customers. Look at the characteristics of the individual segments and the trends within them. Look at the market from the point of view of its division among you, your competitors, complementars and suppliers. What are your goals?

Designate and characterise the groups of your customers. What are they doing, how are they living, what values do they affirm, what do they like and dislike, how do they measure their success?

Where do you have your information about your customers from? Do you follow them on the internet, do you send them questionnaires, do you follows statistics of claims and services, do you visit them and listen to them?

Sometimes it is not enough to listen to the customers only. If you ask them what product they would expect from you, you will receive an answer such as – beautiful, of high quality, reliable and for a good price. What is “beautiful”? In what way do our customers use our product and measure its quality and reliability? And what does a “good price” mean?

The work of the customer, not the customer, is the basic object of the marketer’s analysis who wants to design a product the customer will buy. Clayton M. Christensen

 Yes, the customers sometimes cannot exactly define their requirements for your product or service. They live in their own world and use their own language.

What to do with this? Get to know their world, learn their language and reveal their unfulfilled needs and dreams.

When innovating a hospital bed we could observe and film a real situation during the usage of this bed in a hospital. Just this experience will enable us to really understand the processes of handling the bed and patient, and to analyse thoroughly the real requirements of the nurse, patient or doctor. Similarly we can proceed during the analysing of customers in the area of furniture, software, manufacturing equipment or consumer goods.

Product Customer Requirements
Hospital bed Director of hospital Low operating costs, reducing problems – infections, falling out of bed, the amount of investments
  Patient Comfort, safety, eliminating the decubitus ulcer, communication, possibility of self-service
  Nurse Easy handling with the bed and patient
Hotel Guest Good meals, comfortable room, silence, services, staff, price
  Education manager Suitable room for trainings, good logistics of the staff, accessibility and parking possibilities, price for services
  Company manager Attractiveness of services for a company party or presentation for clients
Machine tool Boss of production department Productivity of work, operating costs, maintenance costs, flexibility
  Operators Simple operation, comfort of work, simple maintenance
  Maintenance Self-diagnostics, accessibility of spare parts, the machine can be repaired simply
  Designer Suitability for the given production concept, availability of design information including the digital model
Luminaire User Quality, design, reliability, simple operation
  Investor Investment costs, simple installation and operation
  Architect Design, compatibility with the architectonic solution concept
  Designer Technical parameters, price, documentation

 

Market analysis

Product group 1

Product group 2

Product group 3

Total

Market size – thousand EUR/ year
Market size – pcs, tonnes, litres
Key customers – characteristic
Customer needs
Market development  

 

Yearly pace of growth / decline
Market profitability in %
Market opportunities
Threats on market

 

Position of our firm on market
Share of our firm on market
Competitive disadvantages
Competitive

advantages

Our shares on given market
Shares of competitors on given market
Remarks – what is to be done?
Our target position on market
Competitive strategy

 

Customer Characteristics Key needs Unfulfilled needs, desires and dreams
 

 

 

     
 

 

 

     
 

 

 

     
 

 

 

Characteristics – the occupation, locality, gender, value orientation, income group, etc.

Key needs – to live somewhere, to use lighting, to do sports, to produce tyres, etc.

Unfulfilled needs, desires and dreams – to look well, to travel by plane, to manufacture without waste, to eat a lot and to become slim, etc. 

Customer Key process of customers in which they use our product or service Problems of customers in the process Requirements of customers in the process
 

 

 

     
 

 

 

     
 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

 

 

 

 

Key process – turning, checking a pregnant patient, increasing physical potential, relaxing, sleeping, etc.

Problems of customers in the process – failures, wastage, heavy time consumption, noise, uncertainty, disturbance, etc.

Requirements of customers in the process – high productivity, reliability and speed, entertaining character and saving time, calmness and silence, etc.

If you do not know the details of what the customers are doing, visit them. Observe and analyse their work and processes. Present them with the results of your observation and ask them about details you have not revealed or you are uncertain of. If, for example, your customer uses your product for manufacturing or services for further clients, analyse the clients of your customer. Analyse the social, technical and evolutionary trends in your line of business.

Let’s have a look at your non-customers and competitors.

Those who refuse your offer Those who are unaware of us and are served by our competitors
Non-customers

 

 

 

Benefits for them Non-customers

 

Benefits for them
Those who have the need but do not use our product or service, they are satisfied in a different way Those who have money, but still have no need to use or product or service, but they could do so
Non-customers

 

 

 

 

Benefits for them Non-customers

 

Benefits for them

    

Competitors on our market Competitors who have created a new market
Competitors

 

 

 

 

With what are they competing? Competitors

 

With what are they competing?
Competitors from another line of business Competitors on other markets
Competitors

 

 

 

 

With what are they competing? Competitors

 

With what are they competing?

 

The customers are those partners to whom we bring value and benefits and they pay for these. But we also have employees, our fellow-workers with whom we create these values. We should also think of them – what working conditions we create for them, what culture we are building and what are the values that we declare together. Does our company give them only a “salary” or also the opportunity to discover their mission, to develop their talent and self-realisation? Can our employees grow in our firm? Can they find, besides their reward for work and safety, also happiness, joy and the sense of what they are doing? We have defined the customers as those who have needs and the money for their acquisition. However, worldwide there are yet more customers who have needs but no money. Their needs are often of a basic nature – they are lacking health, food, a roof over their heads, security and a job. I am speaking about the ill, the old and the homeless; people who have been tortured, abused and persecuted, and those stricken by various disasters or cruel fates.

These people should also be our customers and should be included in our plans and activities. Not because the abbreviation CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is in fashion today but because these people need our help.

13. 2. 2014

Téma članku: Názory Jána Košturiaka

Autor: Ján Košturiak

Robí poradcu, trénera a kauča v oblasti inovácií, strategického manažmentu, organizácie podniku a priemyselného inžinierstva.

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