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Listen to Your Customers!

Failing to listen to clients puts a company at greater risk than a lack of capital.

To appreciate this assertion, you have to look no further than household names that have failed, or are failing, to understand how important it is to listen to your customers. Here are some examples:

  • General Motors: Why is the government bailing out GM (Stock Quote: GM), while Toyota, Honda and other foreign car companies are successful? Foreign companies heard consumers saying they wanted cars that stretched their dollars and had many places to put their coffee cups.
  • Montgomery Ward: Many people forget this titan of retailing, with stores throughout the U.S. and one of the most famous catalogs in the world.
  • Commodore Computer: A computer powerhouse in the 1980s that competed against Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) and IBM (Stock Quote: IBM), but failed to hear pleas for easy-to-use interfaces and greater memory.
  • Howard Johnson: Families used to frequent HoJo's in great numbers. The company had thousands of restaurants that catered to lower- and middle-income customers. When McDonald's (Stock Quote: MCD) came onto the scene, this restaurant giant didn't understand the need for "fast and cheap."

How does a company avoid becoming irrelevant? Pablo Naranjo, one of Chile's top marketing experts, has seven recommendations, which include speaking with clients, former clients and individuals/companies that fit a client's company profile.

Survey customers: Hire a third party to survey the company's clients and ask the following questions: What are your biggest concerns? What new products and services do you plan to offer? Are you still targeting the same clients? How is your industry changing? What can our company do for you?

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