When was the last time you had a good picture of your small business service or product? I don’t mean walking the factory, checking in with your managers or running a survey. Those things are good, but the results are skewed at best, just plain misleading at worst. The Emperor’s New Clothes and all that. Sure, do those things when you can, but try this today:
Shop your business. This goes way beyond QC and spot-checking. Take your perspective from outside the door, or at least use the same channels your customers have to use. Take your new imperial clothes all the way out of the building, turn around and engage your business from the street. It sounds easy enough, right? When was the last time you interacted with your own company the way a customer does?
Do you sell products? Buy a few from your sales department. Have them shipped to your home to see the whole process in action. Does your sales team follow up each purchase? Did the shipping department process the order immediately? Maybe your company is a bit smaller, but does everyone look for (and take) opportunities to go the extra mile? Is your latest catalog in the box?
Even a restaurant can do this easily. Call in an order of your best and worst sellers, then pick them up from the counter yourself. Take a look at how your food is presented to a paying customer; you may even understand why that particular menu item is your least popular!
What about your phone system? Is it friendly, up-to-date and functional? You’ve been dialing direct for years, your customers may be hitting the keypad in frustration on their end. Email your sales or support employees–anonymously of course–with a question a customer would ask. See how timely and polite the response is. Call your staff and let them show off their customer service skills.
If you own a service company–no matter how small–you can still experience your company from the outside. Set up a service call, go through the process from start to finish. Do they offer additional services or upgrades? It will be worth it, just to see the look on your employee’s face when they realize you are the customer.
Fortune 500 companies are notorious for letting these kinds of details slip through the cracks. Your edge exists because of that lack of detail, don’t ignore the advantage.
Take a good look at your company, but do it from a customer’s perspective once in a while. Shop your company.