Whatever the outcome, everything pales beside Brexit’s potential for market upheaval, political turmoil and social fallout. But our window market is also undergoing profound changes. These are actual, not potential, and the effects are working their way through the market. They’re forcing many companies into uncomfortable choices. For them, Brexit is an additional compounding factor.
If you’re riding this wave of change, and you’re in the right place with the right products, resources and service, you’re probably laughing all the way to the bank. If not – and most are not – you’ll be juggling a mix of problems including too few or not enough of the right sorts of customers, and the wrong products and service to attract them. Your once-effective USPs may not be unique or compelling any more, and you may be forced into lowering prices to keep customers because competitors are dropping their prices for all-too-similar profile, hardware, sealed units, windows and doors.
“Hand on heart, how does your product, quality and service compare with what customers can get from your competitors? And is that in your view, or what customers’ and potential customers’ say?”
If you’re losing or have lost your competitive edge – your relative attractiveness and marketing advantage over competitors – what are you doing to get it back? It’s not much use copying what your competitors are doing now because by the time you’ve caught up, they’ll have moved ahead of you again. And it’s probably not a great time to rely on gut feel and what you’ve heard on the grapevine when there’s so much at stake.
There are four parts to tracking performance and relative advantage:
1. Ask customers to give you the unvarnished truth in regular feedback via a customer satisfaction survey. That’s easier said than done because many don’t like giving negative feedback directly. We all know a few who do, but many you do want to hear from don’t want to be identified with a critical comment, so they pull their punches.
Most people accept that it’s good practice to ask customers for feedback, and best practice to do it at regular intervals so you have a finger on the pulse and can put right what customers say is wrong. But is that enough to keep you sharp and help you win more business? For example, if customers give you six out of 10 for service is that good, nothing special, or bad? The whole point of research tools like these is to help you improve your performance, and they should tell you what and where to improve so you stay ahead – and for that you need to know how your business is doing compared to how well your competitors are doing.
If competitors’ customers are giving them four or five then you are doing well, but if some of them are getting eight or nine then your six is not very good. But you can’t tell that from a survey which only asks your customers to rate you.
2. When markets change, what is important to people changes too, so find out what is important (what customers want), how important different aspects of product, quality, service, support and price are, and track their relative importance over time.
3. Then measure how you perform (what customers get from you) against what’s important – the different aspects of product, quality, service, support and price. Comparing the difference between what they want (their expectations) and what they get (your performance) is what we call the opportunity gap.
Knowing these gaps will enable you to invest your time and effort on improving what needs improving and not waste time and money on things where you are ahead, or where they don’t have as much impact on winning and retaining business.
4. Lastly, you can establish external reference points by comparing how you are doing as measured by your customers against how your competitors are doing, as measured by their customers. Are you pulling ahead, staying level, or falling behind?
This last crucial step reveals your relative advantage, by including competitors’ customers in your research. We call the research to establish relative advantage, BenchMarking surveys. They enable you to see how competitors are doing in the eyes of their customers, so you can directly compare them with how you’re doing with your customers. You can identify their opportunity gaps and compare them to yours to see your relative advantage.
This article was originally published in the Glass & Glazing Products magazine
Call Anna Eriksson, MRA Research on 01453 521621 about benchmarking your business to turn gaps into opportunities and create your relative advantage.