The triumph of the Internet (and social media in particular) has made it easier than ever to start a business.

There’s a massive upside to that. Gone are the days of needing a corporate structure first, or an expensive brick-and-mortar retail location, or expensive ads in print directories. Today, you can start a company presence online in a matter of minutes, and earn your first revenues in hours.

But there’s an equally massive downside to this newly lowered barrier to launching a business: competition. You’ve got more competition than ever. More companies are trying to win over the same customers, in more ways.

In this heightened competitive environment, excellent is the new normal. Customer satisfaction is no longer the icing on the cake, it’s the entire cake itself! That being the case, here’s four tips to help you satisfy your customers.

1. Understand your customers first

Consumer marketing research is now more vital than ever. The good news? It’s also more available than ever.

Given the various forms of social media where you can ask questions and listen for insights and feedback, it’s never been a better time to get to know your customers and their needs.

2. Have the courage to ask

All kinds of market research is available online, and it often feels easier to buy data and analyze it, and make assumptions, than simply ask customers (and potential customers) directly. But there are two key benefits to asking your customers directly.

First, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with that particular customer, and satisfy him with your product or service. Second, there’s a phenomenon called the “Just Asking Effect,” where customers often develop a more positive attitude and report higher overall customer satisfaction with a company that simply shows the courage to ask for feedback.

Perhaps you won’t act on all (or even any) of a particular customer’s insights and opinions, but that person may well feel an affinity toward you simply because you asked and listened.

3. Figure out exactly what makes your customers happy, and do that

It seems like a simple concept, but many businesses have problems framing this overall objective. Assumptions and bias always play a role with problem-framing in business, and it’s perhaps most commonly seen in a company’s lack of understanding of its target consumers’ specific needs and desires, and ultimately their happiness and satisfaction.

Perhaps your customer wants a certain attribute of a product, and that drives his or her happiness. Perhaps it’s a function that saves time, or eliminates an undesirable task.

Perhaps your customer wants a great experience from you, in which case both offline and online events would be the way to go. The needs will vary, depending on your company’s capabilities and your client base, but the important thing is to learn what satisfies your customers, and create an event or attribute to deliver that.

4. Measure, execute, measure, delight

Create a survey (or utilize great event surveys that have already been created) to figure out how customers feel before your event or product launch. Then execute your event or campaign. Then survey them again, and see if any change in satisfaction resulted.

If your customer insights are correct, there should be an increase in satisfaction … unless your customers started out perfectly satisfied. In that case, monitoring to ensure there is no drop in satisfaction, but rather a continuance of your positive relationship, would be the goal of event surveys.

Written by Drew Hendricks