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It seems ridiculous to have to remind ourselves that we need to put customers first to be successful in business, but when running a small business, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day dramas of staffing issues, bill payments and trying to win new business.
Just sometimes existing customers can suffer a little neglect and walk away. Being "customer centric" or putting customers first is more than just a catch-phrase. It should be a way of life. Everyone who works with you, including your suppliers, should also think that customers count.
iSign is a great Not for Profit New Zealand business that facilitates conversations between the Deaf and hearing. Keeping costs down is vital for a company like iSign and with communication at the heart of everything they do, they looked to 2degrees for help.
The team there listened to their needs, looked at the business as a whole and put together a solution that included unlimited minutes so their booking staff can talk on the phone as long as they need to, improving everyone's experience.
iSign's manager, James Bichan, estimates they're now saving up to 70% on their mobile costs. Click here to listen to their story.
So what happens when you put customers first?
1. You turn customers into advertisers for your business. The most powerful advertising is word of mouth - whether they talk about you to a mate over a beer, or post a comment on Facebook.
Being able to call and thank them as soon as you get positive emails, text messages or online postings from your mobile also means that you close the loop and keep them on side for longer, hopefully for life.
2. When you put your customers' needs first and you are known for doing that, they'll be more understanding when the occasional thing goes wrong. This means you have a little more flexibility and time to resolve any issue and get things back on track.
3. When you listen and truly understand what your customers are trying to achieve you can also develop and offer products and services that make a real difference to their business. You might be able to help them be more profitable and come up with a solution that adds value to their business and sets them apart from their competitors.
iSign learned that they could make significant savings to their operating costs by reviewing each staff member's mobile phone usage; tailoring the plan that would best suit each user. This included implementing Shared Data across multiple devices, Carryover Minutes and Free Calling Groups.
4. The ultimate outcome of a customer-centric way of life is when your customers do their level best to help your business in return for what you do for them. They'll recommend you to others and they'll introduce you to new staff prospects, their favourite suppliers and partners - which in turn allows you to confidently go after new business.
2degrees loves to put customers first and in recognition of this received the following awards: Roy Morgan (2011) Customer Satisfaction, TUANZ Carrier of the year (2010 & 2011) TAUNS Mobile Service Provider of the year (2011 & 2012) CANSTAR Most Statisfied Customer Mobile Phone Carrier (2011), CANSTAR Best Mobile Carrier (2011 & 2012), and the AUT Excellence in Business Support Award (2012).