What Customers Really Want
Why does a customer buy from one vendor instead of another? Many studies have been conducted on this and most, if not all of them, have a number of common findings like value for money, quality of service and reliability.
This article is not based on any such research, but rather on my own experiences in dealing with customers. Working for a very successful organization in the heart of the Middle East’s business hub Dubai, I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with some of the largest customers in the region, from private to government entities and telcos to financial institutions and oil & gas enterprises.
My premise is that business is all about working with and meeting the various demands of people. Therefore, if you want to succeed, give people what they want and you will have everything you want. This is in line with what the great sales guru Zig Ziglar once said “you can have anything in life you want, if you will help other people get what they want”. You see, customers have basic problems and, if you help them to solve their problems by providing good solutions and services, it all comes back around to you, if you are genuine and this is key.
Let’s get to it and have a look at the top 5 needs and wants the customers have based on my experience.
Customers are looking for a trusted partner
It may surprise you, but price rarely comes first. Rather, customers look for a trusted local partner with global experience that could work with them to achieve a mutual goal. Ideally, customers want you to become integral to their success, and occasionally hold their hand at least during the initial phases or when facing significant challenges.
Customers want a complete and future-looking solution
More often than not, customers are looking for a holistic approach, a reference architecture with options to reach there in a phased approach as budget constraints permit. In other words, although they want to solve a current problem, they also want you to see the big picture and provide them with an ideal solution, a solution that will preempt other upcoming challenges.
Customer support really matters
This is critically important and a true win-win, as it’s definitely the top source for on-going business. Once a customer awards you a project, the only thing that will make buy from you again is the quality of support they are provided with after the sale is closed.
If you can differentiate yourself here by providing top class services to back your customer down the road, this may be a great proposition for a long-term relationship.
Customers want human interactions
Every business situation involves making a connection with another individual or group of individuals based on like and trust. One of my favorite quotes on this that says it all is “all things being equal, most people would rather buy from somebody they like and trust”. Interestingly enough, that’s true even when all things aren’t equal.
There are many schools of thought on building strong relationships. A quite effective method, which has always worked for me, is to genuinely show empathy and like the other person first. In turn, they will invariably start liking you. Then make sure you listen, really listen to what the customer has to say, and whenever you have the chance make them feel important (because they are!). It’s about the customer, not about you.
Value over price
Finally, the value you bring to the table and how the overall price compares to similar offers is key to making a sale. Unless you can differentiate yourself and prove that buying from you is the right decision for the client, the client can and should buy elsewhere.
We all want to feel that the whole experience has been of value. Whether price is high or low, it is not as relevant for the customer as perception of value. For example, a backup solution that supports virtually any operating system, any hardware platform be it physical or virtual, and integrates with any storage vendor will be significantly more expensive than another backup solution that only supports Windows and Linux systems, has limited hardware compatibility and only supports virtual environments. Despite the difference in price or cost, they are both perceived to be value for money in their qualified markets.
I would like to wrap this up with something I read many years ago, which was called the circle of customer service, if I remember correctly;
Treat customers right and they will come back because they like you.
If they like you, they tend to spend more money.
If they spend more money, you definitely want to treat them even better.
If you treat them better, they keep coming back.
I’m very keen to hear your top three on the subject.
-By Virgil Dobos
Senior Technical Consultant