There is so much focus on how businesses interact/ communicate with customers, which is justified without question; however, an overlooked aspect is how customers or potential customers interact/ communicate with a business. Most customers, and we are each customers every single day, do not know how to explain what they want or what they are looking for to a business. Instead of speaking very broadly about this, I will speak specifically of one of my businesses, Liberty Coatings (a full service residential and commercial painting company).
I strive constantly to listen and learn from my customers in order to better serve them, as we all should. It all starts with the initial phone call or email to me requesting a paint proposal, at that point we set up a time to meet and go over the project. From the first meeting to the time that they have a proposal in their hands is typically one to three days. Once they have the proposal I hear from 60% of my potential customers within a couple of days, and these are typically the ones that want us to do the job and we set a start date.
I always do follow up phone calls or email with the people I don’t hear from within a few days to make sure they received the proposal and to see if they have any questions. A handful of them didn’t receive the proposal but did not check back in with me, some haven’t read it over yet, and there are several other reasons which I can deal with just fine. From my point of view, the one thing I wish customers of mine, or me as a customer, would do is to feel free to ask questions as well as feel free to talk to me about the bid.
If you want us to do it but can’t afford it tell me, I have helped many customers out in this situation by offering payment, credit card payment, etc. Others may just not want us to do the job, and instead of talking to me they just hide. The point here is to be communicative with each other in all situations. As a business owner I need to talk openly with my customers, I need to be transparent. As a customer I need to talk with the businesses I deal with and explain what I want and where my head is at. Many situations could be so easily resolved, and less drawn out, if we would each express our thoughts and then listen when someone else is doing the same.
I don’t have a Masters degree or anything like that, but one thing (along with some other things I think) I know that I am good at, is interacting and engaging with people. I love people, I love the stories that I hear from my customers, I love solving problems and making people feel calm when they start getting nervous or overwhelmed on a project. I love developing that customer into a friend. We just need to open these lines of communication, talk to me, we will most certainly figure something out.