Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Customers Keep a Business Going

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!

Customers Keep a Business Going — Keep Yours Close to You

by Monica Braun, Center for Rural Affairs, mbraun@alltel.net

The Center for Rural Affairs' Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) advises rural entrepreneurs in the development of their small businesses and microenterprises. We offer regular columns, such as this one, from our REAP staff with advice for rural microentrepreneurs.

All businesses believe they are very close to their customers, but often they know very little about them. This is the most important group of people to a business.

Customer turnover is frequently high, but usually this turnover is not analyzed. Rather than find out why customers cease to buy their products/services, most businesses increase promotion to find new customers. Usually, this is very costly.

Customers determine the success or failure of a business. Without them a business cannot exist. To capture customers, a business owner must find out what customers want and will buy.

Expectations and demands are influenced by non-economic as well as economic factors, such as attitudes, desires, and expectations. Also, people want as much as possible for their money.Evidence indicates that staying close to customers can pay off. A sale never ends, but continues to make customers come back. Customer satisfaction must be continuously monitored.

A few questions you might want to ask include:
- Are your customers satisfied or not satisfied with your present products/services?
- Do your products/services have the features they need/like/dislike?
- Do you provide a needed product/service or one that is considered a luxury?
- Are they satisfied with the price range of products/services?
- Do they understand why your prices are set as they are?
- Are customers’ expectations being met?
- Do they feel they are getting value for their dollars?

Ways to obtain information from customers include customer surveys, conversations with customers, observing customers, keeping track of customer’s questions, requesting customer suggestions, etc.

It takes some time and effort but a business owner can know his/her customers well and be able to solve their problems and retain their business.

post a question or comment here, or contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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