Learning from Looking Backwards
In our fast-paced world, new technology is leap-frogging old technology and everyone is trying to guess what the next great thing will be. So yes, it is important to keep looking forward and planning for the future. It is just as important however, to look back over the past couple of years and see what we can learn from the past. Your organisation has a treasure trove of information if you care to look into it. Here are some things to look for.
History with major customers
What business are we doing now with our top ten customers? Looking at each one in turn, what business did we do last year, the year before and the previous year? What is the trend with each customer? Who were our top ten customers three years ago? What business are we doing with them now? What has changed? Why?
Talk to these top ten customers. How do they feel about service levels, quality of product, relationships? Ask them to compare how they feel now with how things were over the last few years. Do they see improvements or do they feel you are slipping? Why? What is the trend in their business? What do they need now that is different from what they needed three years ago? Have you kept up with their changing needs?
Who were our contacts in these customer organisations three years ago? Last year? Who do we deal with now? Have decision-makers or influencers changed? Has the structure changed? Have we increased our number of contacts over the past three years? Have we widened our circle of influence? Or have we lost contact with important people? Have people moved on? Do we need to build some new relationships now? Do the new people understand who we are and what we do?
Look back over the past 12 months. Have we lost some customers? Who? Why? Have we missed out on tenders or quotes? Why? What did we learn from losing this business? Have we had a proper debrief with the customer to learn what influenced their decision? Why did they choose somebody else? What was really important to them? How can we do it differently next time to be successful?
Who were our competitors three years ago? Who are our competitors now? What has changed? Have our competitors grown over the past few years? Are they being more successful then we are? What are they doing well that we can learn from? Do we have more competitors now than we did three years ago? Why? What do their customers love about them? What do their customers complain about? If some customers have switched from a competitor and started doing business with you, do you know why?
Keep asking the right questions
When I was a child, like most children, I asked "why" about many, many things! Asking the right questions is how we learn about ourselves, about others and about the world. Many organisations are so busy looking forwards that they forget to ask "why" about things that have happened in the recent past. Asking the right questions will help you learn some vital information. You will learn what you have done well and what you can improve. You will learn what you need to do next.
And now you have no excuses. You no longer have to ponder which questions you need to ask. The right questions to ask are all here, in this blog. All you need to do is start asking! And learn from the answers.
Success With Grace is home of the TechBiz Success Academy, specialising in helping technology based businesses grow. For information about TechBiz training go to www.techbizsuccess.com and also check out Business Communication and Customer Communication workshops on the ITP website.
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