A recent web search for the topic of Customer Satisfaction Strategy yielded over a billion results. That’s mind blowing – and yet indicative of the importance of a happy customer when building a successful business.

While there are many processes, books and consultants who can help attack the issue of finding and keeping happy customers – our preference is simple stories that demonstrate. One of our recent favorite stories comes from the book “The Power of Little Ideas.” The book itself offers advice and a four-step process to innovation – but what really stuck with us is a simple story of customer success shared at the very beginning.

The company profiled was Sherwin Williams, and the story is that the author used a painter that only used Sherwin Williams. When the author went to visit a Sherwin Williams store to understand why – he realized that while Sherwin Williams was focused on selling paint, they really were focused on making small business painter contractors happy.

So while Sherwin Williams offered up consumer products and color consultants, the core of the store was to offer supplies and experts who can help painters assess and plan their jobs, and minimize waste and lost time in the process. Sure, Sherwin Williams would sell someone like me paint (which I have purchased at one of their stores as a consumer), but focusing their effort on making the small business/painter their “happy” customer was the priority.

It made us at Corporate Path Leadership think about the clients we work with, and who their core “happy” customers really are. There lies a big challenge:

For many companies, their customers are diverse, and with diverse customers come diverse needs. Too often, that means that trying to have solutions for all customer types – and keeping them all happy is a never-ending, unfulfilled chase.

Using the Sherwin Williams story though, a better angle is to sit down and really look at your customers. If you really had to focus on one sub-segment that was the most important to the long-term success of the growth of your business, what would that segment look like? In some cases your most important customer segment might not be the biggest revenue segment for your business today – but betting on them in the long-run would mean the best opportunity for growth/success.

Once you have a reality check with that core customer segment that matters the most, how can you start to identify what about your current offerings helps them be “happy?”
  • Is it a specific offering?
  • Is it the resources and engagement tools you offer (or should)?
  • Is it the partnerships you have in place (or should)?
  • Is it your value?
How to get to these answers

The true way to learn this is to spend quality time with those core customers and learn from listening to them. At the same time, you should ask specifically and deliberately what else they would like from your company to help them be successful. In some cases, this might mean offerings and services that you aren’t equipped to manage yourself.

Finally, you should have some of the clues to take back internally to decipher and see how you can help improve the experience with those customers to keep them happy.

IMPORTANT: No matter how tempting, this shouldn’t be tied to a revenue growth goal for your “happy” customers. Taking this self-serving approach will cloud your long-term goals with short-term revenue needs.

No matter the niche you play in as a business, we bet that when you take the time to think deeply, you can identify a smaller subset of your customer base that really matters. Our advice is to start there, figure out what makes them “happy” today, and new things that will continue that trajectory in the future.

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