business-blind-spotMy new car has a blind spot monitor. Anytime a car pulls up beside me, a little orange light flashes in the side view mirror. Yesterday a car crept too close and that light started blinking, and it reminded me of a Twitter chat I had last week.

I was swapping tweets with a couple folks when one of them mentioned a company (which shall remain nameless) with atrocious customer service. Tell me more, I said. And she did.

As it turns out, she isn’t even a customer of the company she was talking about. She likes what they do, she wants to buy from them… and yet, she won’t, because she knows how bad their service is.

Quite a statement: I love your product, I want to be your customer, but I won’t put myself through that.

If you knew your customer service was bad – really bad, so publicly bad that even non-customers knew about it, so horribly bad that it kept even interested prospects from contacting you – wouldn’t you do something about it?

So why don’t they? It’s their blind spot. And they don’t have a monitor.

A good blind spot monitor knows something you don’t. It knows where your blind spot is. This seems obvious, but it underscores the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know. So how do you fix it?

You start by realizing that you don’t know where your blind spot is – because YOU can’t see it from where you’re sitting. So get a different vantage point.

Ask your customers where you can improve, and do it in a way they can answer anonymously. Google your company name and see what comes up (then Bing it just for kicks). Look on Twitter, on Facebook, wherever your customers and prospects are. See what surprises come up, and instead of being defensive or dismissive, just listen.

If you have the budget, get a researcher to help. In my own experience conducting research on consumers and businesses, I’ve helped uncover some big blind spots, like:

  • Helping a bank client identify and fight back against a stealthy competitor that was flying under the radar and poaching their best customers.
  • Helping a software client see that their interface, so beloved by heavy users, had such a steep learning curve that it was driving time-crunched prospects to competitors with easier-to-learn functionality (even though the competitive software was less powerful).
  • Helping a furniture store understand that their retail layout was alienating half of their potential customers right when they walked in the door.

Once you know what your blind spot is, you can decide what you want to do about it. Maybe you fix it. Maybe you mitigate it by explaining why you do things the way you do them. Maybe you keep on ignoring it and hope it’ll go away. Your call.

After all, a blind spot monitor doesn’t tell you where to go. It just helps you avoid accidents on the way… and that’s something we all need help with.

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