Understanding and Serving Your Customers

Understanding and Serving Your Customers

Running on Innovation, A New Solution for City Dwellers, Focus on Customers. Learn from these companies that are doing it right.

Recently, I attended a public forum called Healthcare in the 21st Century: A Community Call to Action.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Atul Gawande, author, surgeon and healthcare thought leader. Gawande said that patients, like customers, have a level of expectation on quality and deserve a capability to make informed choices.

In fact, in his book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” he uses examples from the airline and construction industries to explain how to get it right.

He was encouraging healthcare providers to think in new ways about customer service, and he complimented those present at the talk who were already doing so.

Gawande said that creating and implementing innovative solutions for customers based on good information delivers results. Commercial businesses are not dealing with life-and-death situations, but there are many who are emerging from tough economic times by doing exactly what Gawande prescribes.

Companies that have their ear to the ground, observing consumer trends and reinventing the way they do things for their customers, are also keeping their businesses healthy and delivering profits.

Here are some great examples:

Hungry for Information

Companies like Starbucks are trying to address the huge global concern about unhealthy diets.

They are listening to their customer’s desires for calorie information and healthier food, and responding by posting this information in their stores and on their websites and actively changing their offerings. While they do sell plenty of high-fat, high-sugar, caloric foods, they also offer alternatives. For example, Starbucks prominently displays nutrition information on its menu blog.

Here customers can learn all about the foods and drinks that are low in calories, share the information with others and post their comments.

The company also has fliers prominently posted in each of its stores so that customers can readily obtain nutrition information. This year, Starbucks announced a new customer feedback site called My Starbucks Idea, where customers can share ideas and vote on others.

The posted Starbucks results showed nearly 39 percent shareholder return on investment and $13.3 billion in revenue for 2012.

Running on Innovation

Nike received Fast Company magazine’s top honors recently as the No.1 most innovative company of 2013 and one that has a corporate culture of innovation.

In 2012, Nike introduced two new products that stretched the definition of running apparel to new lengths. One was the Nike+ FuelBand, a simple, elegant band like a wristwatch that allows the wearer to track their daily footsteps and workouts.

The other is the Flyknit Racer, which are feather-light shoes that feel like socks on top of soles and are created to be environmentally friendly and eventually more cost-effective to produce. In the future,

Flyknit will allow customers to digitally personalize their shoes to match the exact shape of their feet. In 2012, Nike’s annual revenue hit $24 billion and profits were up 57 percent. Nike’s consistent focus on creative, innovative solutions for their customers clearly delivered strong results.

A New Solution for City Dwellers

The 10th most innovative company on Fast Company’s list for 2013 is Target, which was recognized for developing a new store concept that changes its big box image.

Recognizing that they wanted to attract customers living in urban areas, they focused their attention on testing a new store concept called CityTarget in Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago. This store will offer smaller packages that focus on value versus quantity and a speedier shopping experience complete with WiFi access, QR codes offering extra product information and a special CityLove section with localized products.

The stores have been located in refurbished historical settings to extend their customer appeal.

There are mixed reviews posted on yelp.com for Los Angeles, but you have to give Target credit for thinking outside the box and trying to attract new customers in a new demographic. Target’s earnings report for 2012 showed 5.1 percent sales growth, and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said that CityTarget locations in the U.S. are intended to improve their customers’ multichannel experience.

Focus on Customers

Companies that show healthy profits in the face of many financial challenges today are truly commendable.

They are also addressing the needs of today’s lifestyles, and their focus on understanding customers is at the root of their success. They demonstrate that they care about the people who choose them. How do you inform, create and deliver so that customers keep choosing your business?

Related articles:

Do You Know What Customers Want?
Developing a Relevant Brand Strategy
Smart Companies Listen and Respond to Customers

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