Understanding your customers – any opinions?

Today British Gas (BG) placed adverts in a number of national newspapers inviting customers to join a panel that will review BG’s operations, discuss their views with its leaders and report publicly on their findings. It struck me as an innovative and high profile way of engaging with customers.

I am currently planning a special report for the Finance and Management Faculty on the issues surrounding starting up a business (keep your eyes peeled in the first quarter of 2010 for this publication). According to the experts that I have spoken to one of the main causes of business failure is a lack of adequate research into the proposed customer base and market place. Understanding and retaining customers is crucial for all sizes of business.

I would be interested to hear how your business understands, and engages with, its customers.  In particular:

- Do you have any examples of initiatives that worked particularly well and those that didn't?  

- Have you used (or observed) any particularly innovative ways of engaging with your customers? 

- As a professional accountant, what was your contribution or role in these initiatives? 

  • Emma - a very relevant topic and I agree that insufficient knowledge of the customer base is an important factor in the failure of small business start-ups.  I am a CA based in Spain running IT and marketing for a multidisciplinary firm of Spanish lawyers and accountants.  As such I come into contact with many "ex-pat" start-up businesses i.e. begun by foreigners in Spain.  Most entrepreneurs do no market research at all and rely on their "instincts" to guide them as their likely success in the marketplace.  Many make unreasonable assumptions about how easy it is for a non-Spanish business to sell to Spaniards forgetting cultural and language barriers.  Finally they often allocate meagre budgets to promotion and marketing.

    As a minor step to assist small businesses we published two guides for them:



    As for special steps to market to and engage with our firm's customers, I can comment that everything we have done online has been more successful than everything we have done offline i.e. invest in press releases, web directories, article marketing, SEO rather than "old media" promotion.

  • One very good method of researching customers is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Once a year or even after a major interaction customers can be asked "on a scale of 1-10 how likely is it that you would recommend me to a friend or business colleague" - scores of 9 and 10 are promoters and 0-6 are detractors.Have a look on Google for more. I know that this score has been discussed by www.iConsensus.com as a method to judge some businesses customer bases.
    oops, i have just seen the date of this first post! I am new to this forum. Perhaps the above will still be of value so will post anyway.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous 7 months ago in reply to Lacy wayne

    Dairy Queen Fan Survey initially began as an outlet in 1940 boble. The company started its working at Joliet, Illinois for serving fast food and ice cream. Dairy Queen in the currently the owner of orange Julius dairy and Karmel Korn.

  • That's the only way to make your business successful. But I think that it's quite important to have a practical approach to it. I mean, you should try out different things and look at the reaction. It always works great because you can fine-tweak all the aspects until you come up with the best solution. This way I myself discover that branded merchandise give-aways are amazingly effective for my business. And I would never think that it could be so.