Chasing after the wrong customers can be costly, especially for a small business. After all, why should you overspend trying to win back dissatisfied customers when you could just as easily ask satisfied customers one simple and profitable question?
Q: What's the "fire hose" analogy in your book title?
A: Businesses today face a blast of information-from sales figures to customer reviews. The volume of this data can be overwhelming, especially for a small business. Many owners say they are confused about what data is most important for making critical decisions. Others say they aren't sure how best to organize incoming data so it can be absorbed and used efficiently.
Q: Why target very satisfied and uncommitted customers?
A: Changing the minds of dissatisfied customers requires enormous resources, which is an impractical expense for a small business. A more profitable approach is to focus on customers who already enjoy what you sell or are on the fence about it.
Q: But unhappy customers can go viral, yes?
A: Of course. You certainly should track their complaints and resolve them quickly, particularly those that illuminate a problem in your company that you didn't know existed. But spending too much to win them back isn't an efficient use of dollars. Instead, treat these customers as a resource to uncover inefficiencies in your products and services. If they return, great. If not, use your resources where they will count most.
Q: Why bother with uncommitted customers?
A: They are powerful because they can be won over. They are "swing voters," and by definition they are on the fence. Also, when these customers are suddenly satisfied, they tend to rave to others about their positive experience. The key is to engage this independent, swing-voter customer in a dialogue that has a positive outcome for both of you.
Q: So what's the magic question?
A: It's simple really, and you ask it after a customer's experience with your business: "What is the one thing I could have done differently to improve your experience?"
Q: Why just one question?
A: One question creates the right learning environment. All very satisfied and uncommitted customers can become motivated to think of one answer. And once they get going, they will likely give you three or four things to improve. Another way to position the question is through what's known as "Start, stop and continue"-"What do you suggest we start, what do you suggest we stop and what do you suggest we continue?"
Q: How does one cope with the "fire hose" of answers?
A: Part of the "fire hose" problem today is knowing what information is valuable. The other part is figuring out what to do with it. Our suggestion is to set up physical or electronic folders. Since virtually all businesses can be divided into four or five components that are a direct result of customer actions-operations, sales, returns, billing and customer service-you can use these as folder labels.