During some leisurely reading this morning, I was reading this article on Forbes, I began thinking about how so many businesses fail because they lack a simple understanding of good business. The article talks about how Best Buy is failing, and not because of the standard reasons regarding their fight against online retailers. They are losing because they fail to understand good business–namely quality customer service. As I was reading the article, it reinforced the fact that it doesn’t matter whether you are online, have a physical location, or both–you need to be focused on your customers. You need to understand what they want and how you can get that for them. This is the great secret in business–provide something that your customers want–and do it well. And there are so many tools available to help us get a better understanding of what our customers want and how we can provide them (think: Social Media).
In the article, the author talks about how Amazon has taken their weaknesses (namely the lack of a “show room”), and turned it into one of their strengths by offering expert content on subject matter that can replace a visit to a store. You no longer have to visit a physical location because you can tell everything about the product by visiting the website. And that includes user and expert reviews about the product so you can see what other people like and dislike about the products.
The basics of good business don’t change when you work online, you just have to use different methods to implement them. You still
need to identify a need and fill that need better than everyone else. Identify your weakness and see how you can turn that into a strong point for your company. There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to doing business online or offline, but if you can innovate and out-think your competitors you can offer a great experience either way.
As you think about your company and how you can offer the best experience for your customers, don’t overlook one the best ways to get this information–simply ask your customers–find out what they think and really listen. Using social media to find this information is a perfect way to identify how your customers (or would-be customers) can be made happy–and then (like Amazon does well), do your best to go above and beyond!
If you do this well you can provide an experience that your customers will come back for. Everyone is looking for a quality experience with their shoppers and everyone is critical and skeptical of almost everyone in the beginning–with so many companies out looking to squeeze every dime out of you for a mediocre product, if you can make customers feel like you really want them to have a positive experience and enjoy a quality product, you will have a loyal customer. And loyal customers share their experiences with others (as do those who have highly negative experiences). Use this to your advantage–but it has to be a philosophy that you truly believe in–otherwise it won’t work. You might get burned by some who take advantage of you, but I truly believe that most people are looking for a positive experience, and if you can provide it you will have a loyal customer base who will spread the word about your company–they just need a little help from you. In the end, the customer is always right!