Every small business owner remembers their first customer. But as the orders start rolling in and your team expands, it can be hard to stay connected to the people fuelling your business growth.
It’s ironic, considering most people start their own business to make a difference to their customers’ lives.
Speaking on a recent SmartCompany webinar hosted in partnership with fintech startup Airwallex, a star-studded panel shared why being “customer obsessed” is the cornerstone of any great business.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
What does it mean to be “customer obsessed”?
According to Simson, being “customer obsessed” starts from the top and filters down through every aspect of your business: from your leadership ability, to your culture and cash flow.
“It comes back to the good old basics: building relationships,” Simson said.
Customers want to know: “Do I believe in you? Are you transparent? Do I know who you are? If something went wrong, could I call you and actually speak to a human?”
Being close to your customers is a major advantage small business owners have over large retailers. It’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten as your business grows.
“It’s critical that you remain very close to your customers, whatever position you are in the company,” Mathers observed.
“I called up a couple of big retailers because I’d placed orders and I didn’t know where they were. The calls all went to voicemail.”
Mathers says delivering a poor customer experience is like scoring an “own goal” against yourself.
“You have the customer, now give them a great experience. Don’t let something go from zero to 90 because you’ve not managed them properly.”
Raghvani agrees, adding that “the core thing” you can do as a business owner is to stay close to your customers — even when you make mistakes.
“You’re not going to get it right every time, but if you’ve got the belief of your customers, then you’re going to learn from that, evolve and say ‘this is what we’re going to do better next time.’”
Often, Raghvani says the “fear factor” of losing customer revenue holds business owners back from acknowledging their mistakes.
“It becomes about the cash, rather than looking after the customer and doing the right thing.
If you’ve got a genuine desire and a commitment to being customer obsessed, then you’ve got the authenticity to step back and say, ‘We’re sorry.’”
The secret to cash flow: Don’t “churn and burn”
“The best way to fund your business growth is through the customer. They have a vested interest in your success,” Mathers says.
Instead of throwing discounts and promotions at your customers, give them what they actually want.
Whether that’s creating high-quality products or delivering great customer service, investing back into your business is more sustainable than chasing a quick revenue win.
“Where I’ve seen it fall over is people are so hungry for growth that they don’t control the cashflow. They get themselves in a complete pickle and the business goes under,” Mathers says.
Raghvani agrees that there are two approaches – the short-term “churn and burn” model, and the “customer-centric” model that focuses on “delivering a higher value back to your customer then you’re getting from them.”
“If you’re discounting every day, and looking to shift volume, that doesn’t really tie into a growth mindset. It’s about making a dollar today.
But if you’re an entrepreneur with a growth mindset, you want to be customer centric.”
Be an “intentional” leader
As your business grows from your first order to your thousandth, it can be hard to stay in touch with your customers.
Bringing on a team to scale your customer obsession is key. As a leader, it’s up to you to infuse your customer-centric values from the top down.
“If you can train your employees to build your brand, then you’ve got a client base of 8 billion people. Suddenly, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to acquire and retain your customers,” Raghvani says.
According to Simson, effective leadership is “intentional leadership”. Being focused, innovative and making strategic decisions.
“Stay open-minded and externally curious. We can learn a lot from other industries and different business models.”
For Mathers, strong leadership means self awareness and reflection.
“You’ve got to know what you’re very good at and also what you’re not good at, and you’ve got to keep learning.
“One of the key things any leader has to be incredibly good at is communication. You’re not a lone wolf — you’re bringing a whole team on the journey with you.”
To hear more insights from this expert panel, watch the full webinar here.
Airwallex is a global fintech payment platform with a mission to empower businesses of all sizes to grow without borders, and by doing so, contribute to the global economy. With technology at its core, Airwallex has built a global financial infrastructure and platform to help businesses to manage payments, treasury and expenses internationally, without the constraints of the traditional financial system. Today, the business operates with a team of over 800 employees across 12 global offices.