Over the past decade, technology advancements have strengthened how businesses engage with new and existing customers. Based on product availability, customers’ expectations for service are driven by “when and how” a business can meet their needs; this is called customer demand. Factors that influence customer demand include seasonality, competition, geography, economic conditions, and the types of goods or services offered. In 2020, as customer expectations changed, customer demand was the number one topic that business owners and executives shared as a top challenging business pain point.
Customer demand is more than just understanding KPI metrics and dashboards. That’s why customer service and customer demand go hand-in-hand. Customer service is the engagement and etiquette of what happens before, during, and after a business transaction or customer encounter that defines the service and its value. In today’s business world, customer service includes operational standards, delivery, conflict resolution, communication channels, cost, and convenience. That is why it’s no surprise that most successful businesses and companies invest in knowing customer insights and metrics to forecast and improve their sales strategy. Out of hundreds of scorecards and business analytics measurements, I have created a list of four need-to-know metrics that all business owners should implement to successfully pivot to customer demand:
- Wait Time
How long are your customers waiting for a service? How long does it take you to close the sale? What is your delivery time?
Knowing and managing your wait time will help you effectively manage customer relationships and schedule your employees during peak times in your business. Wait time can be measured in different ways: for example, from the time it takes to checkout a customer to the time it takes for an item to be delivered to a customer’s home or car. A long wait time could signal a breakdown in processes. For instance, a long wait time for a restaurant could indicate a breakdown in food production or staffing. A long wait time for a professional service company could also indicate a breakdown in efficiency and processes or lack of follow-up.
What do your customers say about your business or employees? How do you measure friendliness or satisfaction?
Whether you are using customer satisfaction surveys, secret shoppers, or reviews on various platforms, understanding how your customers feel about your business will help you troubleshoot the pain points and find solutions to missed opportunities to provide satisfaction to your customer. Companies who have high customer ratings take quick action to customer complaints and always go above and beyond to resolve issues. Measuring satisfaction helps provide insight to gaps in employee training and will help you incorporate new business practices that will improve your satisfaction rating.
What are your business’ operating hours and how do you notify customers of changes? What products are available and in-stock for your customers and what can you offer as a substitution?
During last year’s ice storm and throughout the pandemic, many businesses shut down without notice, which resulted in some of the worst customer availability experiences in the past decade. Notifying your customers of changes to your business during challenging times will help you build a better rapport with your customers. One of the most transformative insights to online shopping was incorporating availability tools and search engines that allow customers to verify in-stock products and in-store availability. This helps create convenience and helps customers make more informed choices. Product availability also helps you to market your business and plan for promotions. Your business’ bottom line depends on your ability to shift customer demand.
Did you know customer engagement helps drive customer demand?
When it comes to employee engagement, surveying your employees and implementing training plans based on employee feedback helps to create a winning culture with a ripple effect to happier employees who go above and beyond to also pivot to customer demand. Customer engagement provides cost savings when you use that data to make decisions to eliminate products and services that are not giving you the return on investment.
Ultimately, understanding your demand can help your business plan for inventory, production, marketing, staffing, and customer traffic. To learn about demand forecasting, I recommend the fulfillment lab, where they talk about customer demand benefits, methods, and projections. The way to take more ownership in your business is to start the year with an assessment to measure wait time, satisfaction, availability, and engagement. Don’t wait to pivot to customer demand; it could cost you!
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CEO and Business Consultant at PIPE Consulting