“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone in the company simply by spending his money somewhere else.” –Sam Walton
Practically every business cites "customer satisfaction" as a core goal of their mission statement.
But there's a big difference between mentioning the customer in formal documents, and actually incorporating customer satisfaction improvements into every aspect, department, and action of a business.
That is to say, to foster a corporate culture of customer obsession.
Customer obsession is the key principle behind the most successful companies today – from Apple to Amazon.
In a recent letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos writes about his belief that centering a business on “obsessive customer focus” is the best way to succeed:
"Customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf."
And this concept isn't new – nor is it a temporary business trend. Amazon's very first shareholders letter, written in 1997, featured a section entitled Obsess Over Customers.
So this is a business approach that works for the very largest businesses. But what about the rest of us?
Why Customer Obsession Matters to Small Businesses
"If you take care of the top line (i.e. the sales), the bottom line (i.e. the profits) will take care of itself.” –Steve Jobs
Everything falls in line when you prioritize the customer. Because once you prioritize the customer, you maximize sales and you do so with no roadblocks.
Once you have these sales, everything else in your business opens up. You can hire an assistant, you can hire a full-time marketing person, or you can invest in new tools.
It all starts with the sales.
Of course, sales don't exist on their own - they're not abstract. They're people: your customers - the art buyers.
If you don't prioritize those customers first and foremost in everything you do, then your sales will be less than they otherwise could or should be. This has a cascading effect on your business. Everything becomes more difficult as a result.
Most small businesses don’t obsess about their customer.
In fact, many don’t even prioritize their customer, and they don't even realize they're doing it.
So who do we tend to focus on, if not our customers?
As such, we make business decisions where our customer's lose all the time.
Just think about it for a second. Have you ever made a decision to do something (or not do something) for your own convenience? Even though that something would have CLEARLY benefited your customer's experience?
We see this happening all the time.
And what happens when your customer doesn't get the experience they prefer?
They go to where they will get that experience.
When it comes to the art market, customers can buy art anywhere.
Whoever provides the best possible experience at the time an art buyer is making a decision, wins.
That's precisely why the leading online art sellers have focused on customers for years – why they've developed such sophisticated art-selling technology.
Things like wall and room previews, Augmented Reality apps, framing tools, and 3D previews on canvas, metal etc...these aren't ideas that some developer thought would be cool, they're the result of asking their customers what was preventing them from buying!
They talked to real people – on the phone, in chats, in person. They conducted surveys. They listened to this feedback, and made improvements big and small just to make the everyday customer experience better.
So, the experience that they provide on their art-selling websites isn't rocket science; it's simply the end result of years of obsessing about what the art buyers really wanted.
How many fine artists or photographers study their art buyers? How many are asking what would make their buying experience faster, easier, and better?
From what we have seen, not very many.
One only has to look at a the typical buying experience provided by an artist or photographer on a generic website implementation. It’s just not even close to being on par with the industry leaders who are actually selling a lot of art. As such, it happens to be the furthest away from what the art buyer actually wants.
You need to embody customer obsession if you want to win.
Customers are always going to freely flow like water to wherever the experience is better. Just look at the near-trillion dollar Amazon, or the billions of dollars being spent through the leading art sellers.
These are companies that obsess about the customer, and make every effort to make things as easy as possible for them.
So, this is what you need to do. But here's the thing: unlike the online mass art retailers, you have some serious advantages as an individual artist or photographer that give you an immediate edge.
If you decide to leverage it, that is...
How Artists & Photographers Can Practice Customer Obsession
So, what hope does the independent artist or photographer have when standing up against the leading online art-selling giants?
You be the artist. You engage your art buyers, and have one-on-one conversations with them whenever possible. You give them a personal experience whenever possible. You do the unscalable.
Art buyers want to know you. If possible, they would love to engage directly with the "rock star" person who created the work.
They want to say they “know” you and be able to brag to their friends about it, as they talk about that piece hanging on their wall. It's cocktail party credibility.
When buyers have a question about your art, they don't want to talk to a random customer service person from somewhere like Art.com. Let's face it -- they would only do that if they needed to return something or they needed a refund.
The truth is this -- if given the option, pretty much every art buyer would prefer to buy directly from the artist rather than a random third-party retailer.
Let this sink in for a moment. Realize that if you can just become closer to your art buyers, and give them the experience they desire, you will have the advantage -- even over the biggest companies in the industry.
Our Two-Customer Obsession at ASF and Why This Makes Us Different
Because we're providing an art gallery website for you, and a platform from which to grow your art business -- we want to give you the best experience possible. Customer obsession is part of our culture.
But we also realize that your art gallery website, and your business, has one main purpose: to provide YOUR customer -- the art buyer -- with the best experience in the world.
If that does not happen, your customers will be less happy, and they will buy less. As a consequence, you, too, will be less happy.
If your customers aren't happy your business will eventually feel it.
And so in our minds, we have always felt that it's our responsibility to obsess about two customers.
There's you, and there's your customers -- the art buyers themselves. We at Art Storefronts are obsessed about both.
Everything we do is guided by this principle.
Our art gallery websites, our software and all of its features. Our marketing advice, and the emotional impact it will have on your art buyers.
It's why we have always prioritized features like the Wall Preview Tool, which was released 5 years ago. Still at the time of this writing (July 3rd, 2018), no other website provider has provided this to their customers. It's why we recently released the website-based augmented reality feature, which is a total game changer.
So, now you know about customer obsession and what it means for every small business.
Are you ready to start obsessing about your own customers -- those art buyers who visit your website every day, or that you meet at art fairs, or in galleries?
Then come join us, along with over two thousand artists and photographers who have already taken this step. Join companies like Amazon and Apple who have made this philosophy the lifeblood of their businesses.
Request a Demo today to learn more about how we can help you take your art business to the next level.