There are various methods you can use to ascertain how well you’re actually taking care of your clients or customers, but nothing beats the simplicity of just asking them!
What has 2022 been like for your small business or nonprofit?
Starting just shy of three years ago, many entrepreneurs suddenly found themselves in the unenviable position of having to completely reevaluate the strategy behind doing what they do. As the events of 2020 unfolded, the very fabric of doing business underwent a quantum shift, the fallout of which is just now beginning to be fully understood. As the status quo of what it means to operate a company was forever shattered, the net result was that smaller enterprises fell into one of two slots: dissolution or evolution.
Sadly, many businesses simply were unable to adapt to the changing sphere of business in a way that allowed them to modify their operational philosophy to weather the storm. In some cases this was completely outside of their control, but in others it was a direct outcome of being unwilling to embrace new technologies and practices. Innovation during the height of the pandemic was more than just a buzzword; it was a very real necessity for any business that wanted to maintain some semblance of its position within the marketplace. Those who committed to learning new ways of operating were able to keep afloat, and in certain cases even to enjoy some growth.
But for those who were afraid of new tech, or who adopted a casual approach toward retooling their company, the end results were sometimes catastrophic. Some stubborn souls were insistent on trying to live out “business as usual”, but usual was gone forever. So many other complex factors came into play in the subsequent months – “The Great Resignation”, supply chain interruptions, inflation at a 40-year high – that the entire landscape of business was virtually unrecognizable from what it had been just a year previously. And it’s this very melting pot of factors which has left a residue on the mindset of anyone in business in the last months of 2022.
The good news is that the lessons learned over the last few years can provide a positive and powerful impetus as you move your business into the new year. If your business predates the pandemic, you’ve obviously been doing at least something right, and most likely many things. Take confidence from the fact that perseverance is contributing to the longevity of your enterprise, but don’t be content to just let things there. Not only can you benefit from reevaluating all the efforts that played a role in surviving the challenges that appeared in 2020, but you can also derive a narrative from the real effectiveness and impact of your business in the here and now.
The demands of operating a small business or nonprofit are so all-consuming that it can be tough to maintain an objective outlook as to how the people you serve feel about what you’re doing. Unless you’re intentional about asking this question, you’ll either lull yourself into believing that you’re doing everything perfectly, or you’ll never even consider it in the first place. The happy medium starts with a healthy dose of humility, recognizing that you have made and will continue to make many mistakes, as will everybody who works for you. Thinking that you’ve got it all together is a pretty clear indication that you don’t, but the converse – seeking honest feedback about your shortcomings – paves the way for making valid, substantial change.
There are various methods you can use to ascertain how well you’re actually taking care of your clients or customers, but nothing beats the simplicity of just asking them! Maybe the most helpful parallel to draw is the one between client surveying and political election exit polling. The practice of querying voters as they leave a polling place dates back to the 1960’s when news organizations initiated the practice as a way to try to predict results for elections. Although the practice is far from precise – due largely to the fact that only certain precincts are polled and a relatively small number of persons surveyed – a general narrative can still be drawn that gives an overview as to what decisions people made and what the factors were that influenced them.
As you wind down 2022 in your business, you can employ a similar strategy. Develop a concise, specific survey – ideally comprised of 10 questions or less – and find a practical way to get it in front of the eyes of as many of your customers or clients as possible. If your business is one that’s retail based, with no easy way for you to keep track of the people purchasing your goods, you can still introduce a survey at the point-of-sale, providing people with a URL on the receipt for them to access an on-line questionnaire at a later time. This can enable you to gather feedback about the experience they had while in your establishment (or navigating your website), as well as their perceptions about the quality, value, and “added value” of what they purchased.
If the nature of your enterprise is more in the realm of services provided, or especially in the client sphere where a short-term working relationship is a key component of what you do, you’re in an even better position to gain perspective from those you’ve served. You likely have an email address for each of your clients, so it’s a simple enough effort to send an end of year message to them. This carries the dual benefit of enabling you to personalize a final communication for the year, thanking them for the opportunity to serve them, and also to provide them with an easy, straightforward way to respond to your survey.
Some people won’t respond, and some may not truthfully answer everything that you ask, but you should get enough honest replies to help you fashion a perspective of just how well you’re doing. If people are negative, the worst thing you can do is to take it as a personal insult. Be thick-skinned, and take to heart feedback that shines a spotlight on potential deficits in your organization. Always thinking that you’re on the right path might help you feel good about your business, but discovering that you still have some work to do to get things to be like they should is truly a blessing in disguise.
Just as with the myriad of challenges the pandemic threw in your path, you can utilize even unsatisfactory survey responses to help you serve people with more skill, relevance, and impact as you enter 2023. Be intentional to learn how people perceive you as your business exits this year, and you may well find a higher level of client or customer satisfaction when next year is drawing to a close.
Want to grow your business in 2023? ValorExcel offers training, coaching, and development services to help you reach your goals. Contact us at 240-329-9387 or visit www.valorexcel.com/businessservices. In the meantime, make sure you check our recent videos on YouTube by clicking HERE. Each episode is designed to inspire and empower you to work smarter, not harder.