A Fresh Perspective: Seeing Your Business Through Your Customers’ Eyes

Start transforming your business by shifting your perspective. When you view your business as your customers do, you’ll immediately start to see opportunities to improve.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day challenges of running a business — an employee calls out sick, a critical supply is unavailable, some equipment is on the fritz, a customer leaves a 1-star review, and so on. There’s something new every day.

Your customers don’t care about any of this. And they shouldn’t, because they have a long list of their own issues to deal with. People love local businesses that offer an escape from reality — a great meal, shopping with a friend, a unique experience, or just an opportunity to take a break from their day.

When you see your business through your customers’ eyes, you will likely discover opportunities to improve the customer experience. Even small tweaks can have an outsized impact on your customers. It just takes a shift in mindset.

Let’s walk through a few scenarios to better understand how customers see your business.

A Potential Customer

Imagine someone moves into your town and doesn’t know anyone. They want the product or service you offer. How would they find you?

  • Physical Presence. If they drive by your business, does the signage clearly indicate what the business offers? What’s the first impression they get from seeing your business?
  • Online Presence. Does your business show up if they search for the product/service online? Where would they search (Google, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, etc.)? What words would they use in their search? Of all the options they find, what makes your business stand out?
  • Word of Mouth. If they ask a random person in town, would that person recommend your business? Would they even know about your business? What if they ask their real estate agent, insurance agent, or other early contact?

This isn’t just a thought experiment. You should actually do these things. Drive by your business as if you’ve never seen it before. Do some online searches. Ask a person you don’t know (a waiter, an Uber driver, a hotel concierge, a barista, etc.) for a recommendation for the product/service your business offers and see how often they mention it. You’ll be surprised by what you find.

The In-Store Experience

If you typically enter your business through a back entrance, make a point of walking in just like your customers do. Train your employees to do the same.

What do you notice first? Are the store hours clear? Is there trash on the ground or smudges on the front door? Are you greeted when you enter? What’s the overall impression? Is everything clean and tidy? How does it make you feel?

Are products clearly labeled, including the price? Is the Wi-Fi easy to connect to? Is it easy to find the restroom? Are any add-on charges clearly communicated before the purchase is made?

If your business is a restaurant, cafe or other business that offers seating, sit down for a bit. Are you comfortable and want to stay for a while, or does it quickly get uncomfortable? Is the temperature too hot or cold? Is it drafty, noisy or too dark/light?

These are all things your customers experience, but the business owner/manager often doesn’t. Make a point to walk in your customers’ shoes to experience your business as they do.

Points of Interaction

Evaluate every interaction you have with your customers: in-person greetings, phone greetings, voicemail recordings, mobile app, emails, text messages, social media posts, search engines, and your website.

For example, call your business after hours and listen to the recorded voicemail message. Is it up-to-date, or haven’t you updated it for years? Or perhaps it still uses the default recording? Does the message include your store hours and other useful information like how to find your business?

If you offer a rewards program, join it. If you have a mobile ordering app, go through the process of placing an order. Subscribe to your email lists and follow your social media using a personal account.

Do a similar analysis for every point of interaction. Make sure your branding and messaging are consistent and up-to-date. See if the volume of emails/messages/posts is about right and the content is interesting and useful.

It’s so easy to set these things up when you open the business but not update them as your business evolves. A periodic check will often uncover areas for improvement.

Next Steps

If you feel like you’re too close to your business to see it through the eyes of your customers, there’s an easy workaround. Do these activities as if you were a customer of your biggest competitor. Understanding the customer experience of a competitor will provide useful context to how customers perceive your business.

The most common outcome of this exercise is a long list of small, easy-to-implement improvements. These improvements are easily overlooked in the day-to-day chaos of running a business, but they can have a very positive impact on your customers’ experience.

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