How To Find What Your Customers
Are Really Looking For

by Tom Egelhoff

Ever since the cave man put out the first wheel for purchase by another cave man merchants have been trying to discover the secrets of what customers really want.

What does a company really have to do to set itself apart from all the others?

Some would say quality of their products. Others might suggest superior customer service.

We all know there is no "magic bullet" that works for everyone. So, what are some of the things you can look at that will make your business more attractive to your customers? Try this:

Take a few minutes and rank the following 24 topics with what you feel your customers think is most important.

Arrange the list in order of importance for your business and your customers.

Create your own top 24 list.

Consistently Superior Quality
Quick Turnaround

Sales Rep Understands
Our Business 

Has The Equipment
To Do The Job
Sales Rep Calls In Person

In Sales Rep

Competative Price

Sales Rep Handles
The Details 

Pick-Up & Delivery

Meets Delivery


Sales Rep Provides
New Ideas

Sales Rep

Willing to Work
With Me

Accurate Delivery


Lowest Price


Sales Rep Has
Good Attitude

Accurate Billing

800 Number

Returns Phone Calls Immediately 


Company Is Easy
To Deal With

So, which of the above do you think customers felt was most important to them? Here are the top four answers from a national survey.

1. The number one answer of what customers want most is Trust & Confidence both in the sales rep and the company.

2. Number two is Consistently Superior quality. I think we'll all agree that's important.

3. Number three was Meets Delivery Commitments Exactly. Sort of fits with number two doesn't it?

4. Number four was Resolves Problems Promptly.

What is the most obvious topic that every business always seems to be concerned about? How about "lowest price." Where did that one end up in the ranking?

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There Is Price And Then There Is Cost

You may be surprised to discover that neither "Competitive Pricing" or "Lowest Price" were in the Top Ten.

"Competitive Pricing" finished 13 out of 24 and "Lowest Price" finished 19 out of 24.

Keep in mind this is a nationwide survey of thousands of customers for all types of businesses.

This further demonstrates something that I've preached on this site for years. Customers want benefits not price.

Look again at the top four above. Would you sacrifice any of those for a lower price? Would a lower price out weigh trust and confidence? Would it out weight consistent superior quality?

How about getting it on time? Is late ok as long as it's cheaper? Is it ok to have lots of problems as long as the price is lower?

I think you'll agree with me that the answer to all of those questions is NO!

We don't want to trade important benefits for price. What you need to point out to your customers and salespeople is that price usually has a cost tied to it.

Concentrated orange juice may be higher in "price" but it makes more product over time so it "costs" less.

That is the "cost" "price" lesson. Customers aren't always looking for price they are actually looking for value.

Value translates to benefits. (See: Understanding Why Customers Buy?).

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The Customer Service Myth

What exactly is customer service? There's an old saying, "I don't know art but I know what I like."

This is what customer service is to each of your customers.

I can't define it but I know it when I get it. The problem is each customer has their own definition of what it is.

So we all want to deliver "knock your socks off customer service" right? This, in my opinion, is the customer service myth.

In most cases, no you don't, want to provide "knock your socks off customer service."

Before you stop reading let me explain what I mean. If you were going to drive cross country in an automobile and there was no speed limit, how long would it take you?

That would depend on a lot of variables. Your automobile, traffic, road conditions, weather and other factors. You could not drive coast to coast at top speed. Some times you could drive at top speed but other times you couldn't.

When you reach the other coast you would have an average speed that you could maintain. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow.

It's the same way in business. You can't deliver "knock your socks off service" all day every day nor should you try to.

However, there is a level of service you can consistently provide that is "adequate" for your customers. My Funk & Wagnall defines "adequate" as:

"Equal to what is required; fully sufficient." This is your level of "knock your socks off service."

If you go out of your way with a new customer to deliver service above and beyond the call of duty all you've done is demonstrate to that customer your normal service.

They don't know you are doing anything other than what you normally do.

If you can't deliver that level of service consistently to that customer they are going to be upset with you and your company. In addition,

if your regular customers hear of this level of service for others they may wonder why they aren't getting similar treatment.

If there is a problem, that's the time to pull out all the stops to retain that customer. That's the time you drive at top speed.

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Create Company Value Now And In The Future

Instead of dwelling on the ambiguous levels of customer service focus on the true value of your company or service to your customers.

With new customers you need to create value now. Keep your promises and keep in touch with those you need to. Talk about the things they aren't buying now that you provide.

I'd still have a horse and buggy if I'd never seen a car.

Create value for the future. Maintain adequate service to your customers and start building the company client relationship.

This is where you build the trust and confidence that will keep customers from defecting to your competition.

Create a value of influence from long time customers. These are the people who are your champions.

They would never go anywhere else. They are family. They are the ones who provide the testimonials for your company.

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The Last Word On What Customers Are Looking For

Your customers are looking for trust and confidence in your business. That's a total package.

It's quality as well as service. If you want your customer to be impressed with you be impressed with them.

This is the single most important part of the buying decision. Do I have trust and confidence in this company?

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