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5 Questions to ask high-end customers & specifiers

Wayne McMaster

11 September 2015

To find out what customers really think of your high-end interior brand, as opposed to what you’d like them to think, requires you to ask some brave and searching questions. Understandably, most of us prefer compliments to criticism but where your business is concerned it is imperative to understand how you are really perceived, even if this reveals some uncomfortable truths.

Seeing the company through your customers ’ eyes is the necessary starting point for change and development.

So what are the questions you should be asking your customers?

1. Can you describe our company – our personality, ethos, approach, point of difference?

You may find that customers struggle to answer this question and that, in itself, is revealing. Clients often view a high-end interiors business through their experience of 1-2 key individuals and have little sense of the ‘brand’ beyond. Do your customers believe that the company has a point of difference or are you largely interchangeable with ten other high-end interior businesses that also do good work? If you are trying to build your company’s brand and reputation to be bigger than individuals, then this is a key question to ask.

2. Is there any particular type of project or challenge, within our broad area of product offer or expertise, that you might not consider us for?

This question helps you to understand the boxes that customers may be putting you in, either fairly or unfairly. Do they see any gaps in your skill set? There is nothing more annoying than being overlooked for a project that you are well capable of delivering, so the answer to this question has the potential to forearm you and allow you to shift an incorrect perception.

3. Would you like us to be more proactive in any way?

Proactivity is so often the difference between good and excellent customer relationships, so why not ask a direct question? Is there anything that you can do to meet and exceed customer expectations in this area? Different customers, depending on their seniority, will view proactivity slightly differently so the question can reveal some interesting areas that you may wish to focus on.

4. If you could give our company just one piece of advice what would it be?

This is a great question to ask your best customers. Fans of your company will often give a well-considered, quite rich answer. It can sometimes point to an underlying weakness or concern, or be a useful comment about your future best direction.

5. Is there anything we can learn from other high-end interior brands that you know or have worked with?

Customers’ heads can be turned by another company. Perhaps it’s some proactive new business activity, a presentation that looks at their projects and market differently or some ground-breaking new product launches that pushes the boundaries. The customer can suddenly see you, the incumbent business, as perhaps a little too comfortable and start to think, ‘Why isn’t this company doing some of these things?’ However, it is unlikely they will volunteer this information. You have to probe. Of course, there are many more questions to ask, as well as questions that some customers will be uneasy about answering to your face. There is huge benefit in conducting an independent Customer Survey across all your key customers so that you can draw balanced conclusions, rather than reacting to the views of just one or two customers. Customer relationships need to be monitored because as Peter Drucker said, ‘What’s measured improves.’

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