In a world of infinite choices, a key differentiator is making life easy for your customers. Not just with products and services, but in how easy you are to do business with.

Getting it wrong takes no effort. I once had a pricing question that took three months to answer. Every time I climb a prickly phone tree or battle through jargon I vow I’ll go somewhere else next time. A difficult web site? Two clicks to the competition. An open door or a closed padlock?

Walking the carpet every day, it’s easy to miss how your customers experience your business.

So ask, “Are we easy to do business with?”

Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to get reliable answers internally. The sales team will tell you they’re on first name terms will every customer, service desks have stats to prove their worth. They’re probably both right but neither will get to the heart of the matter.

Unvarnished answers

For unvarnished answers you have to go outside.

Customers: this question should ABSOLUTELY be on the menu at any customer lunch. Don’t let them get away with happy talk either, mine for crystals and nuggets. New customers are even more useful; they don’t know the short cuts yet. How do they get what they want? Where are the hurdles?

Non-customers: call prospects who went in a different direction; what was their experience? Ask a friend to mystery shop, look over their shoulder as they explore your website. What about ex-customers? Was ease-of-use a contributing factor?

This isn’t about catching anyone out. It’s about taking responsibility to find out what face you present to the world. And then dealing with whatever you find.

Fixing service issues can be a lot quicker and have more impact than a new product. Days rather than months. But only if you know it needs fixing.

How easy you are to do business with?

Skippy Strategy: Work this question into every customer conversation you have. Definitely over lunch and meetings at trade shows, anyone you bump into who knows your company as an outsider. For extra colour, try the sales team one evening.

Keeping Promises Leading