Benchmarks are popular tools to adapt and optimize processes, systems and methods. What are other companies doing, what are current trends and what works? But if you lose sight of your own customer base and only concentrate on benchmarks, you might get lost in the hype.
The modern customer doesn’t call anymore, they prefer live chat. The modern customer writes e-mails or sends documents via WhatsApp instead of using the fax machine. The modern customer doesn’t want a printed catalog but an amazing online shop.
All these are statements that can be based on numerous studies, surveys and benchmarks. It’s easy to use them as the basis to change your own communication channels, get rid of your fax machine and think over your traditional catalog. But all those trends tend to lose sight of the real customers. Because what the average customer does and what your customer wants, might be completely different things.
Looking at benchmarks the right way
So, what are benchmarks? They are basically standards of comparison. You look at average numbers, processes and behaviors or other companies or customers and compare them to yours. But how do you know that these benchmarks represent your company and customers? Benchmarks differ widely when it comes to different industries, markets, countries, etc.
B2B vs. B2C
B2B-customers behave differently than B2C-customers. They usually decide in teams (buying centers) and have to make decisions not just for themselves but for their company.
German customers usually behave differently than American customers. For example, social media-usage in Germany is much more muted and limited than in English-speaking countries. Even in German-speaking countries, there can be differences in how to address customers (formal or informal) depending on where you are.
There are big variations when it comes to communication regarding different industries. There are industries that still rely on the fax machine. If you discard it just because of a benchmark that covers completely different industries, you might snub your own customers.
Even the way studies or benchmarks are being performed might influence the results. It’s not always transparent who was asked through which means and which results were measured in which way.
If you ask people about digital communication to find out what they prefer, it can impact the result where or how you ask them. However, if you gain all your results by calling people on the landline, you might reach more people that prefer old-fashioned methods of communicating. If you only ask people through an online survey, you’re more likely to reach people that are comfortable with digital channels.
The solution: make your own benchmarks
Before you look at general benchmarks, studies and trends, you should first evaluate your own customers‘ behavior and develop your own benchmarks based on the data.
How does your click-rate look like, how many churns do you have, how high is your conversion-rate? Which weekdays are most successful when it comes to newsletters and at which time do your social media post get the most likes?
If you combine these numbers with the overall performance of your business, you can easily see whether these numbers are good or bad for you. If business is well, then it might not be a big problem if your benchmarks deviate from the general status quo. You can use your own numbers to try things out and optimize processes. But you don’t have to bend backwards to reach results that might not even be healthy for your business.
However, if your customers are unhappy, you have high churn-rates or too many newsletter-customers unsubscribe after only a week or two, you might want to look at other benchmarks. They can give you tips what successful companies do differently. In this case, benchmarks tell you what your processes might lack. But even in this case, it’s best to consult your own customers because they know best what they want (or don’t want).
It’s never a bad idea to look at what other companies are doing, what’s the „norm“ in your industry, what other countries do and what other customers prefer. Inspiration comes from all directions. However, just because something works for one company, doesn’t mean that it works for you. The first question should therefore always be from the outside-in-perspective: what do my customers need?
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