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½ a Block in Your Customers’ Shoes

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What keeps customers from doing business with you?

I slept in this morning and woke up hungry. So I walked halfway down the block to a sandwich shop for some breakfast to-go. I would’ve called in the order first but didn’t have their phone number.

I had picked up a takeout menu about a year ago when the shop first opened. But when I tried to use it, they’d changed the phone number. So I walked down to order. They had no new menus with the updated number at the time and until today, I hadn’t been back.

This morning, I asked for a new menu again, alas…no menus. “I just haven’t gotten around to making copies,” the owner said. I ordered breakfast anyway, it wasn’t bad, but I still don’t have their phone number. I doubt I’ll be back soon.

I may be lazy, but so are your customers.

You might be thinking that I’m just lazy. So I had to walk half a block to order and then come back in 10 minutes. Big deal. You’re right, it’s not a big deal and I am lazy. But so are your customers.

They’re not lazy in a bad way, they’re just busy. They care about their jobs, families and hobbies much more than doing what you want them to do. They want to get the other stuff, like paying bills, making appointments and shopping, done with as little effort as possible.

Little things, like not having the phone number, can be barriers for your customers. Obviously, not having a takeout menu may seem like a novice mistake, but almost any barrier, large or small, can prevent a customer from behaving the way you want. (see sidebar for another example)

Do you know what keeps customers from doing business with you?

The owner didn’t have time to make menu copies. How many orders is that costing him? Every business has opportunities to make it easier for customers to do business with you. The first step is finding out exactly what are the barriers so you can get busy removing them. Here’s what you’ll find:

1. Easy things. Copying takeout menus is easy and low cost. It is the proverbial “low-hanging fruit”. Sometimes those high value, low cost changes can have big payoffs. Imagine if every person who eats there makes one more order a month due to a $.05 menu.

2. Hard things. Some things customers want can have an enormous payoff, but are hard to do. This is when you need to make an investment. There is inherently more risk in the hard things. Be sure your analysis is correct so you can reap the reward.

3. New things. You’re not the only one who has ideas for your business. Researching customers can have surprisingly strategic outcomes. Your observations and investigation can easily lead to new ideas, large and small. A new feature or service, even new products and lines of business will result.

The bottom line: Be sure to get know your customers.

Oh yeah, letting them know your phone number is a good idea too.

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