Generally our customers are always giving us clues about what they want. Sometimes they aren't even clues, they are outright demands and the message is clear, if we don't come up with what they want they will find a business that will. Clearly we have an opportunity on our hands.

That said, this only works if we are listening to what they have to say and that seems to be the problem. As business owners many of us are too busy to hear what our customers are saying, and one day, we realize that the regular face that we were used to seeing hasn't been around for a while. Or that regular order that we received online, simply stopped and we were too busy to follow up to find out what the issue was.

I was recently running a four-day retreat in Bali for a number of my trainee authors. The conversation kept going back to speaking and presentation skills. Initially I was getting a little frustrated as this was taking us off topic, but on day two, I finally realized that they were all telling me they wanted training to be better speakers. I got it, offered to do a 4 day speaker training program and they all committed on the spot.

The international franchise Bark Busters made a point of listening to potential customers. People were having issues entering properties with dogs, which was a major issue for many service related industries like meter readers. Bark Busters realized this was an opportunity so they developed training programs to teach people who have to enter properties with dogs how to do it and avoid being bitten. They teach these courses to organizations everywhere.

Generally, we lose customers over the little things, although we think we lose them over the big things. Our customers will gladly give us their ideas, thoughts, desires and needs, and whilst they may seem little in among the scheme of things in your day, to them, they are significant enough that they make mention of it. Imagine the stress of entering properties with "Beware of Dog" signs all day long if you are not confident? What a relief to be taught the skills to eliminate this fear? That's a big relief for people in this situation.

This is in itself a big deal, as people generally don't want to speak up, fearing that the business owner might take their feedback in a negative way and often that's exactly what happens, or just as bad, they are completely ignored.

The moral to this idea is that we need to be listening really closely to what our customers have to say. Remember, what they really want and need may come out in snippets of information in a short conversation. Our job is to get better at hearing these snippets and clues and being prepared to act on the information they share.