By Adrian Swinscoe, Director, RARE Business

You run a great company that is admired by your peers for your technical prowess and the competency of your employees. You don’t have any problems finding new customers but then you find that you struggle to keep them. Sound familiar? Or do you know a business that would fit this description?

Some companies struggle with customer retention as they get caught up in the idea of how they can be better and lose sight of their customer and their needs. This can manifest itself in many ways. They try to be:

- Faster

- Cheaper

- Technically more proficient

- More knowledgeable

- etc.

However, being better, faster or cheaper may not be what your customers really want and, rather than focusing on bettering your skills or efficiency, the key to better customer retention may not be as complicated as this. It may be much more simple than that.

Think about this. Have you ever wondered what it is like to be one of your customers? Or, have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a customer of one of your competitors?

No? Yes?

How could this help? It is common to focus on making our businesses and our team as good as we can. However, in the process we can get caught up in our own little world and forget what it is like to be a customer. Spending time understanding the world from our customers' perspective can be key to being able to build a long-term relationship with them. It’s also key in building empathy into our business.

A common definition of empathy is being able to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’. In dictionary terms it is also defined as:

"Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives."

The basis of deep and meaningful closeness in a relationship is empathy, this is the foundation of the experience of “we” rather than just “I” or “you.” If your customer senses that you really feel how it is for them, they can feel less anxious, stressed, closer and more trusting.

Fundamentally, empathy is a skill, like any other, that can be learnt and that we can all get better at. And much the same, you can build empathy into your business and your team.

One way this can be done is by Mystery Shopping yourself or your competitors. It’s a technique that has been used since the 1940s as a way of evaluating a company’s performance from its customers perspective and can look at all aspects of a business from how easy it is to buy from a business, how they deal with questions, complaints or their customer service. Usually independent agencies can be hired to mystery shop your business or your competitors. On completion, they will then provide detailed reports and feedback on their experiences.

However, it doesn’t end there. What you learn from the Mystery Shopping experience may be great insight but it is what you do with that insight that will really allow you to build greater empathy with your clients and retain them for longer.

Have you come across a business that had great empathy with your needs as a customer? What did they do to build that empathy?

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