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Making Customers Successful


March 12, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford The ideal of being customer focused cannot be undermined or over emphasized. Every employee in a company must be motivated enough to come to … Continued

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

The ideal of being customer focused cannot be undermined or over emphasized. Every employee in a company must be motivated enough to come to work with ideas on what can be done for making customers successful. Leaders may argue that their primary role would be to create financial prosperity for the company and afford high ROI for the shareholders – which is true, however, the surest path to do all of that is by putting in place strategies to make the company’s customers successful. If customers were not successful, they would not make money, which in turn means that they would not remain customers. Without customers, there can be no business. Making customers successful is related directly to the success and prosperity of a company, especially when customers know that their success has something to do with their association with the company.

As with any initiative and effort, making customers successful is not something that would happen overnight and without complete focus. It is important for a company to make time to understand customers, know their business and vision, realize their pain areas and strengths, and the overall strategies they have for the growth of their business. In addition, a company must share its own goals, and interact with customers to exchange ideas that would help the customer’s business become more successful. As mentioned, within the customer’s success lies the attainment of goals of the company. The fact that many companies continue to ignore is that making customers successful is an idea that goes beyond treating customers as ‘numbers or transactions’. It is more than constantly wanting to sell to them and earn from them. It is about building a strong relationship and an emotional bond, and finding ways to help customers grow more rapidly. In any case, the faster a customer’s business grows, the more business and revenue they would be able to provide to a company.

Today’s business environment consists of companies of all sorts – a diverse ‘ecosystem’ of business. Even if a customer may be too small to create high revenue for a company, it could still be worth retaining and helping them because of their possible long-term importance and ability to influence growth. There are no guarantees that a big customer of today would remain so even tomorrow, or that a smaller customer today would not become a company’s most influential and profitable one in the near future – the business environment is far to dynamic and in a state of constant change. For a company it is necessary to have a mix of customers – some who would be growing swiftly, and others who may not be too ‘big’ but would have tactical importance for the company. Make making customers successful a habit and a practice in the company – it would be worth every investment of time and other resources.

In the spirit and practice of making customers successful, a company’s top executives must make time to explore areas of common interest and mutual benefit with customers with the top person of their customer’s company. In addition, there would frequent interaction and interfacing with other people in the customer’s company, and it would make sense to meet with them, get to know them better, and ask relevant questions about the processes and procedures they follow when conducting business. The reason for doing so would be gain maximum alignment with the customer – for example understand their payment cycle, and set your invoicing systems around that. Aligning with customers and their processes, would make things a lot easier for them, and your support would make them successful, which in turn would make your company successful.

The only way to start building a relationship with customers is to encourage them to interact with your company. Customers would be more inclined to interact if they believe your company to be honest, know that you will do what you promise and deliver on their timelines and budget. Customers want to grow and become successful, and would therefore want to collaborate with companies they can trust and are easy to deal with. In addition, customers want transparency in processes and regular dealings. By being all these ‘things’ to customers, your company would contribute to making them successful, and in turn they would want to stay with your company.

Today is the age of information. Customers (just like all others) have easy access to free information all the time. However, all the information would not always be useful and relevant, and it would be hard for customers to sift useful information from irrelevant stuff. In the ‘quest’ of making customers successful, a company should provide customers with relevant information, useful articles, and other engaging content. This information could be around trends in the customer’s industry, material on new marketing trends, latest technology and software, customer service best practices, and other such useful data. Customers would be thankful for this effort, since clearly, it would be outside the scope of the agreement, and it would help them forge ahead and move towards success. As customers gain more business and success, they would be sure to reciprocate and pass on a lot of it to the company that helped them along the way.

Customers love companies that make them feel important and place them on a pedestal. It costs nothing to put customers before the company, speak about their success before that of the company, and make highlighting their achievements a practice. As a company makes concerted effort to make customers successful, at least 90% of them would feel emotionally connected with the company, and would do whatever possible to make the company successful too. Customers that do not recognize your efforts, or do not bother helping your company, would be a small percentage that could be ‘fired’. It would be better to work towards making customers successful who would return the favor.

In today’s digitized world, the human touch and personal interactions seem to have been relegated to the background. However, the customers of today are increasingly demanding, seeking personalization and customization, and want to engage with companies that have the willingness and ability to capture their mind and heart. Companies that can do so, would actually be making customers successful with each passing day, and in the bargain would gain success and growth for their own business too. A company must be prudent enough to know that it would in its best interest to give the customers everything they need in order to be successful. Ensure that customers completely understand the features and benefits of the company’s offerings, and show them why no one else in the market would be capable of providing the same. It would be necessary to equip the customers with whatever information they need to be successful at every stage of their ‘journey’ with a company.

For making customers successful and insuring the success of a company, it would be necessary to be clear about revenue targets, milestones the company would help the customer achieve, and any other topics that would be of interest to the customer. As mentioned, it should not be about the company and its offerings – the focus must remain on making customers successful, which in any case would translate to the success of the company. Developing mutually beneficial relationships with customers will make them more successful, will help the company grow, and would be a sustainable win-win situation for all involved.

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Building a Culture of Trust and Motivation


March 11, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” – STEPHEN R. COVEY We know it is imperative for any company to have a large and loyal customer base contributing to the company’s bottom … Continued

“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” STEPHEN R. COVEY

We know it is imperative for any company to have a large and loyal customer base contributing to the company’s bottom line in several ways. However, to ensure such a customer base, a company must have a strong and dedicated workforce – since it is through employees that a company would serve its customers. It is the responsibility of the leaders to ensure high employee morale, and by building a culture of trust and motivation with its employees, a company can be sure to build a strong base of happy and loyal customers. A company must be committed to open communication – where every employee must have the right to speak their mind and share their opinions without fear of ridicule or retribution. This may sound obvious and even easy.  However, several companies still struggle with allowing open dialogue and as a result end up with an unmotivated and disgruntled workforce, incapable of serving customers well and courteously.

For building a culture of trust and motivation, it is imperative to have open dialogue even if there were disagreements. In fact, working around and sorting out disagreements is critical to enhance workforce cohesion, leading to a healthy work culture and high employee morale. Irrespective of the structure, business, and age of a company, building a culture of trust and motivation should remain among the topmost priorities. A healthy and strong company would be able to withstand market upheavals, competitor ‘attacks’, and other changes – that would otherwise shake a company’s foundation. Of course, achieving and sustaining a culture of trust and motivation is no mean task and requires concerted effort, commitment, and willingness to divert resources. Building a culture of trust and motivation will not happen overnight, and will not sustain itself – every person in the company must understand their role in this endeavour.

In today’s fast growing business world, companies are so busy with trouncing competition, gaining increased profits, and attracting more customers that they forget to treat their own ‘people’ fairly. Their employees feel neglected, unconfident, and as failures, leading to lowered productivity, shoddy work output, discourteous service to external customers, and conflicts with their co-workers. However, the complete opposite is true in companies focused on building a culture of trust and motivation. Employees love their company and work, are amenable to cooperating with their peers, and sincerely motivated to make customers, themselves, and their company successful. Stress and conflicts are replaced by joy, enthusiasm, and everyday seems like a celebration. The leaders of such companies would have obviously grasped the importance of building a culture of trust and motivation, and know exactly how to do so.

Employees that work in companies which encourage open communication, understand that their opinion and ‘voice’ matter, and that it would be acceptable even if they disagree with their supervisors and colleagues. Employees would understand their importance as a person and an individual, and that their particular role has its uniqueness and importance. The exceptional experience and knowledge that each employee brings, helps to resolve problems faster, and view aspects in varying ways, providing a new perspective. The leaders of the company too, must understand the influence and power they have to create an environment where each person feels important, and would be certain that their opinion counts. It is the job of leadership to listen and accept views different from their own, which in turn lends confidence in the employees, leading to a sense of belongingness and loyalty. A focus on building a culture of trust and motivation is about addressing problems through consent, finding ways to give everyone a ‘voice’, and encouraging each person to be vigilant and aware, which would proactively prevent problems within and for the company.

While it is important for a company to listen to its employees, this alone does not suffice. To sustain a culture of trust and motivation, it would be important to appreciate, recognize, and reward the efforts and successes of employees. Employees that consistently demonstrate and apply the values of the company must receive due and formal recognition. Many companies ask employees to nominate their co-workers for different categories and things they do to make the workplace better. Being nominated by the peer group and the same reaffirmed by the leaders of the company shows everyone that their achievements are important, and that their contribution and role is extremely critical to the success of a company. When everyone feels appreciated, sustaining a culture of trust and motivation becomes a lot easier.

A highly robust and workable method of building a culture of trust and motivation is by encouraging employee participation in all activities and important ‘traditions’ of the company. Such participation enhances feelings of oneness and cohesion within the company, which is extremely important to reduce stress and conflicts, and keep each employee happy enough to serve the company’s customers well, and make honest contributions to their work. When everyone can perceive their contributions as being recognized and appreciated, they would be more amenable to work together, make compromises when required, and show care for those they work with. Being polite and amicable is not a sign of weakness – but rather are indispensable ways to increase productivity and cohesion and reduce stress and conflicts.

For encouraging and building a culture of trust and motivation the company’s leaders must remain honest and transparent in all their dealings. This is true of their interactions with each other, all employees, customers, and the public. Such companies are aware of their responsibility in managing and even preventing crisis and inconvenience for those associated with them. The leaders of the company must make appearances at gatherings and events, and be prepared to speak with the media when required. Hiding behind ‘iron doors and stone walls’ indicates that the company has something to hide, which in turn reduces the trust levels of not just customers, but employees as well. It is important for companies to focus on the problems of their customers and employees, what they care about, and what would make them feel happy. It should never only be about the interests of the company – people do not care – they care about what happens to them with relationship to the company.

For building a culture of trust and motivation, a company would need to remain forthright and not give reason to its employees to feel disgruntled and disillusioned. Even if such employees stay with a company, they would probably do more harm than good. Weeding out such employees is not the solution since doing so would create a sense of insecurity, fear, and discontent in the mind of the remaining employees, which ultimately would lead to a demotivated and distrusting workforce. To earn trust and respect, a company and its leaders must take steps to earn it. Motivation and trust are not things that anyone can enforce. A company must give opportunities for these to ‘breed’, and do away with any barriers to their growth.

Each employee has the power to build a culture of trust and motivation, not just for themselves but for their colleagues too. While the leaders of companies can set the tone and ‘ball rolling’ for the establishment of a positive culture, the sustainability of a culture of trust and motivation is possible only through the buy-in and support of the employees. When employees can express their views without fear, they would be more open to respect the ideas of others, and would be willing to support a culture of motivation and trust.

 

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Eliminate Competition and Win Customers


March 10, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Smart people will play where the competition is weak” – SayQuotable With an increasing number of transactions and interactions between customers and companies going online, it has become a lot easier for competitors to sneak in and catch a company … Continued

“Smart people will play where the competition is weak” – SayQuotable

With an increasing number of transactions and interactions between customers and companies going online, it has become a lot easier for competitors to sneak in and catch a company unawares. Free and open source technology has made it simpler and quicker for websites and other online presence to be ‘copied’, and without too much cost. Hence, in a market where both winning and losing seem inextricably linked, it would make sense for companies to put in place tactics and strategies to win market share, eliminate competition and win customers – even customers that would currently be with a competitor. Previously, it would suffice to invest time and resources to validate and prove your value, in comparison to a competitor. However, with the business world becoming cutthroat, unforgiving, and unrelenting it would seem like the new mantra – eliminate competition and win customers – stands true and bold. The starting point of doing so would be for a company to thoroughly understand its customers, and more necessarily its own offerings and abilities, and be painstakingly aware of the value it would bring to the users.

There is no doubt today that to eliminate competition and win customers, every company must know and consistently display its USP to show why it is different and better, and why customers should stay and pay more for its products and or services. A company that is unable to answer why it is better and unique, would soon find itself overshadowed and unable to command any position in the market. To eliminate competition and win customers, a company would need to translate its knowledge, expertise, and conviction into a high value proposition that would instantly find favour with customers. This would be something that would ‘stick’ with customers such that any time they would require certain products or services, your company would be the ‘go to’ one, even if they need to pay incrementally higher prices.

The words and ‘spirit’ of this USP should convey that customers would be losing and compromising if they were buying from a competitor – remember, the idea is to eliminate competition, not stand alongside and ‘co-exist’. Do you believe that the USP statement of your company will help to eliminate competition and win customers? The USP must convey (we dare say – unabashedly) that buying from a competitor would be a significant disadvantage, and the customer need not compromise when they could easily buy from your company instead. It may seem sneaky, but a company would be praising its own products and services, and putting down its competitors without actually taking names or pinpointing any one competitor in particular. Of course, putting down competition will not suffice – a company must provide compelling reasons and key value points to show customers why there would be no one better in the market to give them what they want.

Top class service, and competition eradicating offerings are quintessential to eliminate competition and win customers. Both service and offerings enable a company to stay competitive and reduce barriers to entry – customers are quick to perceive inferiority in any realm of their association with a company, and then are unforgiving. The harsh reality however, is that even then there are companies today with the best of products and yet lose to other companies offering lower grade products at higher prices. The answer to this puzzle lies in their ability to market themselves and create extremely good and impressive value propositions. What must companies do to eliminate competition and win customers over? The fact is that every company would want to be the sole provider – that is have no competitors in their area of operation, and have customers believe that its products / brand are the only option available. It all boils down to skilful placing and promotion of the company and its offerings – this is extremely vital to the success of a company. Skilful positioning is about a company’s ability to offer certain benefits to customers that its closest competitor would not be able or willing to offer. Doing so then makes the company’s offer the only viable option in terms of value added benefits. Some of the most successful companies today for example, offer incredible levels of customer service, which in turn ensures that their customers would not even think of buying elsewhere!

A company’s USP is its skilful placing – something that is easily understood and useful to customers. It would need to start by building a unique and robust bond with a large section of its customer base to ensure a business that would thrive and be sustainably successful. Building bonds that are authentic and honest, with customers makes them like a company, leading to regular interactions. These interactions then translate to trust in the minds of customers, and when customers begin to trust a company it generates loyalty and brand affinity – eliminating competition becomes a lot easier. In today’s business environment it is not how big a company is or where it ranks against others – instead it is about making a mark, carving a niche, and displaying superiority in the realm chosen.

The thumb rule today for any business initiative is proactivity. The same would apply when the aim is to eliminate competition and win customers. By proactively facing up to competitors – meaning that a company does not negate the presence of competition, but instead shows customers that its products and offers are significantly better than the competition. It is incorrect to assume that customers would instinctively or intuitively be able to understand which offer or product is superior – they do not have the time, and would prefer to be shown why through compelling reasons. Be open and forthright – make a head on comparison for customers through simple and easy to understand checklists, demonstrations, and other visual methods. A prudent way to eliminate competition and win customers is by ensuring that they can never use the fact that your company has competition as an objection or hurdle in buying from you. In fact, they must not even acknowledge the presence of your competitors. All customers care about is that their problems are resolved and it would be the job of a company to show that it is the solutions to all their problems – the answer to all their needs.

For customers today, a company that can perceive and respond to their emotions would be the most valuable and useful company – and one that they would choose over all others. A company must make the effort to create products and services based on the emotional responses and needs of customers – these offerings would prove more valuable and would be used instantly by customers. Companies that can frame their offerings around customer preferences and their emotional responses and reasons would soon find success in their efforts to eliminate competition and win customers.

Even if your company says that it provides customized solutions, unless customers can see value in those solutions, nothing would be of much use. It is important to incorporate the ‘said value’ into everything the company does, in every message it sends out, and every interaction customers have with it. It is time to leave tactics of trying to ‘buy sales’ – it is the time to know everything there is to know about customers, the market, and your own products and capabilities. If you are passionate about what you do and place customers at the centre of everything, you would soon make eliminating competition and winning customers a habit.

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Why Customers Trash Emails


March 9, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“I want to do business with a company that treats emailing me as a privilege, not a transaction”. – Andrea Mignolo Despite being one of the oldest and traditional forms of communication, emails continue to form a big and important … Continued

“I want to do business with a company that treats emailing me as a privilege, not a transaction”. – Andrea Mignolo

Despite being one of the oldest and traditional forms of communication, emails continue to form a big and important part of information exchange between companies and customers. A report shows that around 205 billion emails are sent out each day, and this is because at least 72% of adult customers in the US alone state their preference as email for communicating with a company. About 91% customers say that they would want a company to send out promotional emails to them. Companies are more than happy to oblige and communicate using emails, with 73% of them agreeing that emails form a central part of their customer-centric marketing and 25% of such companies, rate emails as their top channel for maximized ROI. However, several companies misuse emails to an extent that it makes customers angry, which is the main reason for why customers trash emails from companies.

Customers trash emails at a rapid pace, and ignore the efforts of several brands trying to engage with them. It therefore means that for companies to ensure that their emails are opened and read, rather than trashed, they would need to understand why customers would read some and ignore others. The most important and urgent issue at hand is that today the attention span of customers has become shorter than ever before – dropping by about 4 seconds in the last some years. Today, reports reveal, that the average attention span of customers is around 8 seconds! The first step to knowing why customers trash emails is gaining an understanding of their short attention span, and what customers would want to see in that short time window.

Today companies are competing with a lot more and fiercer competition, and hence the rush to increase business and gain more customers has become apparent in their approach. Despite the fact that customers today expect customization, some companies continue with the ‘umbrella’ approach, even when sending emails. Putting together a single message and sending it off to the entire customer base would never resonate with the varying personalities of customers, which in turn would be the underlying reason for why customers trash emails. Given that customers are bombarded with information all the time, and several companies vie for their attention, they constantly deal with messages, several of which have no relevance and meaning to their everyday lives, business, or preferences. Imagine sending an email about baby food to a senior citizen – how is such information relevant to the particular customer. Soon enough the customer would become irate enough to unsubscribe from a company and never look back.

Research and data shows that within the US alone, at least two-thirds of customers older than 15 years feel encouraged to buy from a company after reading a well-written branding message via email. This means that some companies are doing a swell job of writing emails and subject lines since their emails are not only opened, but are also read and lead to subsequent positive action. What are these companies doing such that customers trash emails of other companies and not the ones they send out?

The sources of data are growing and technology is getting better with each passing day, making it easier for everyone to read and analyse more information than ever before. Despite knowledge at their disposal and access to information is readily available, companies repeatedly make the mistake of not utilizing the data to their advantage. The fact is that companies must know if customers trash emails or are only reading them without taking action. This knowledge would enable companies to adjust their strategy to do more of what works and cut out what seems to ‘fall flat’. Another important aspect that would contribute towards the reasons that customers trash emails, is bad timing. Timing is essential when sending emails to customers. Research shows that most emails are opened late in the evening and some even before midnight, and in order to increase reads and conversions, it would be the responsibility of a company to determine when the target audience reads and responds to emails, and plan delivery of emails during those specific times of the day.

Another top reason for why customers trash emails (or read them) would be the subject line. For a customer who receives several emails in a day, the decision to read or trash them does depend a lot on the subject title – a catchy one would get their attention, while dull boring ones would certainly get dumped. Experts recommend using about fifty characters in the subject line while even some shorter ones are able to grab attention given they would be appealing. The reason so much importance must be given to subject lines is they are the ‘compelling reason’ for customers to open and read the content. Customers trash emails when the subject lines are boring and lack lustre, and fail to arouse their curiosity to know the message a company would want to convey. Personalized subject lines grab the attention at least 14% times more than generic ones.

Customers trash emails when they do not perceive any level of personalization and interest on the part of the company. On the other hand, emails with subject lines that make reference to insights from customers or a previous interaction a customer may have had with the company, are more likely to be read and followed with action.

Companies are constantly thinking of new ways to entice customers, and to do so, spend a lot of time framing the messages. In their eagerness to get the words right, they often overlook the formatting, design, and layout of their messages. Confusing graphics, obsolete fonts, and jarring colour palettes can easily put customers off, since these would not be acceptable in professional emails, especially ones to customers trying to gain their business. Incorporating the appropriate design, colours, and language into emails can only be done when a company respects and understands its target audience – customers trash emails when they do not perceive such respect and importance.

As mentioned, content is what would make or break a marketing email campaign. Even the most well-crafted messages would fail to convert, and in fact could serve to annoy customers if the messages are sent to the wrong set of customers. Segmenting ones customer base would be essential to ensure that the relevant customers get the message, and doing so can increase revenue for a company by about 760% – as revealed by research.

Since emails are a part of the multi-channel world we live in today, it would be prudent for a company to use customer data judiciously and send out emails based on the real time activities and preferences of customers, callers, and website visitors. Customers are usually willing to share personal information and data, but they need assurance that companies would use it to enhance their overall experience they have with a company. Customers trash emails and ignore company communication when they do not believe that their interests are in the forefront. Of course, there are no guarantees that using the correct email tactics and marketing techniques would prevent customers from trashing emails, or that whatever works for a company today, would work tomorrow as well. To ensure that you get across to your customers and keep them interested in your company, consistent efforts for successful multi-channel experiences would be required. Do customers trash emails from your company or are you able to gain optimum conversions?

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Practice Customer-Centric Marketing


March 8, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Integrated marketing communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the view point of the customer”. – Philip Kotler In the business world, the top reason for why marketing strategies fail is that they are focused … Continued

“Integrated marketing communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the view point of the customer”. – Philip Kotler

In the business world, the top reason for why marketing strategies fail is that they are focused on the company. If your company is not seeing the desired results from its marketing strategies and campaigns via all channels, including its website and social media efforts, then it is very likely that company focused marketing is to blame. Of course, developing products that resonate with customers is essential, it is equally important to practice customer-centric marketing such that customers can perceive the benefits they would receive and also the commitment of the company to meet their expectations. In order to devise a customer-centric marketing strategy that would work, it would be imperative for a company to understand the customer and its competitors. Customers do not care about a company – their only concern is with their problems and making their lives easier. By focusing strategies around their needs and expectations, a company would be able to give customers exactly what they want and how they want.

A customer-centric marketing strategy would find favour with customers since it places each individual customer at the core and ‘heart’ of its design and implementation. Such a strategy clearly elaborates that no customer is ordinary, and each customer is equally valued and appreciated. The fact is that customers have their individual preferences, expectations, and needs, which in turn means that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would not work. By applying a customer-centric marketing strategy, a company affords itself with several opportunities to ensure customization and personalization in every interaction with individual customers, which is extremely attractive for customers. Customer-centric marketing approach considers customers as a company’s most valuable asset and long-term investment and just as other assets require different ways of managing, customers too must be managed in a unique manner. All the assets of a company deliver value in their own distinct manner – these assets include the company’s customer base.

A customer-centric marketing approach ensures that more customers become engaged and loyal over time. Loyal customers would actively interact with a brand, buying more often, and promoting it to others – diametrically opposite to casual shoppers who buy only when a company offers discounts and incentives. Through customer-centric marketing, a company would have the ability to connect with both these sets of customers in different ways – ensuring maximum customization in the approaches. A customer-centric marketing approach would be able answer the age old question of ‘what’s in it for me’ – something customers deserve to know before they can spend their time and other resources on a company. In order to answer this question effectively and convincingly, a company must proactively let customers know why its service and offerings are the best in the market – especially from the perspective of letting customers know the benefits for them.

A customer-centric marketing would mean that a company understands that it must constantly evolve and stay ahead of customer expectations, such that it remains relevant to the dynamic and ever-changing wants and preferences of customers. Relevance and effectiveness must be part of the foundation of a customer-centric marketing approach. Such an approach will enable a company to ask customers the ‘right questions’, deploy the most appropriate tools and channels for communication, and use these methods and tools effectively such that every communiqué finds relevance with customers. Today, communicating right is part of customer-centric marketing – it is the responsibility of a company to develop and guide the most relevant and appropriate messages to the different customer segments.

Just like with any other customer-focused approach, customer-centric marketing too must have a sequence and a smooth flow. It would begin by first collecting and analysing customer data and intelligence, around which the company would be able to get an understanding of pertinent requirements from customers. Post this understanding, a company would be able to develop products and the process for message development and dissemination. Once the right messages reach the target customers, a company must close the loop by seeking feedback from customers. This takes into account the customer’s desire and ability to engage with companies, and extend the relationship beyond the confines of business. Gaining feedback from customers must form an inextricable and consistent part of customer-centric marketing since it is the surest and most robust means to understand customers truly and strengthen relationships with them.

As mentioned, customers of today are in control. They know they can choose the companies, the products, and even the channel for communicating with companies. It is in the best interest of companies to understand these preferences, by asking relevant and accurate questions, and also responding truthfully to customer queries / questions. This is necessary to ensure the optimum benefit from the relationship, and for keeping the focus on the needs and expectations of customers. Today’s world is highly digitized and reliant on technology. However, a customer-centric marketing approach would focus on keeping communication relevant and personal, and ensuring that technology does not take away from the humane aspect. Hence, it would be necessary for a company to deploy the most appropriate channel of communication when interacting with different customer segments, since communication methods do influence the messages that a company sends out, and customer-centric marketing is all about communicating how and what customers want. It is about understanding how each channel is perceived and experienced by customers, such that every message has the desired effect that would stay with customers for a long time.

When practicing customer-centric marketing, a company must remember not to be tempted to use the ‘newest’ media, but rather use the most appropriate ones. This is possible by incorporating fresh marketing knowledge but only that which complements the existing knowledge base. As marketing channels evolve, they can be combined in varying ways such that their power to influence increases steadily. Today, communicating with customers is not enough – companies must understand which channels customers prefer to use, and become proficient at handling the exchange of communication via those channels. Whether companies agree and understand or not, the fact is that with every purchase and comment, customers are literally managing the branding and marketing of a company. Companies that perceive this would consistently use a customer-centric marketing approach such that customers remain happy and their satisfaction levels increase consistently – extremely important to sustain and increase profitability of a business.

A customer-centric marketing approach not only keeps customers happy, it is also a means for the marketing teams to feel empowered to ‘go after’ the most appropriate and possibly profitable customers. It helps the teams to remain aligned and work cohesively using the customer-centric marketing strategy to drive long-term value to the customers and the business. A focus on customers will ensure offerings and strategies centred on them, which in turn makes customers feel liked and important, leading to increased trust and dependability on a company. A customer-centric marketing approach leads a company to acquire high-value customers, who not only keep coming back, but rake in more business for the company from other customers too. As a result of repeated interactions, customers become loyal and more profitable for a company. Does your company practice customer-centric marketing?

 

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Do Your Customers Trust You?


March 7, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.” – Thomas J Watson Today, … Continued

“The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.” – Thomas J Watson

Today, customers ‘call the shots’ in the business relationships, and only companies that have been able to nurture emotional connections and form bonds with their customers, would find repeated success. Such companies are able to grow and prosper even without reducing pricing, offering regular discounts and incentives, and engaging in promotional tactics. The reason for the success of such companies is that their customers trust them. As a company it is imperative to continually question whether your customers trust you, and if there be an iota of doubt on this front, your company must remedy it immediately. Without customer trust, a company cannot survive for too long, while with trust a company would be able to retain customers for life.  Of course, building trust does not happen overnight or through one or two positive experiences. Instead, it takes time, effort, and tremendous amounts of hard work to build and sustain.

Your customers trust you only when everyone in the company works together cohesively to achieve their trust and your company provides consistently high standards of service, and transparent dealings, such as keeping promises and honest financial transactions. Many companies make the mistake of assuming that their customers trust them, simply because they continue to remain customers. However, the existing customers may be with a company either for want of a better one, or because their contract would still be active, or because no other company may be offering a particular product or service. While all these could be reasons for why customers stay with a company, these factors certainly do not mean that your customers trust you. Customer trust comes from the kind of experiences they have with a company, and hence it would be critical and prudent for a company to identify opportunities that would enhance the level of a customer’s trust in your company.

We have said before that any company would survive and thrive long term when it has at least some loyal customers. Loyalty happens when customers stay with a company for long, and to do so, they must like and trust a company. Hence, there is a strong correlation between customer trust and loyalty, and customers are quick to perceive feigned trustworthiness and swift to ‘punish’ companies that pretend. The questions commonly debated are whether it is possible for a company to know if customers trust it, and whether there is a way to predict customer trust. Experts believe that it is possible to ascertain whether your customers trust you or not. When customers trust a company, they will usually not spend time and resources to check and verify details that a company may provide – they would believe whatever a company told them. When customers rely on and believe a company, they would immediately take action – whether it is buying a product or service, or agreeing with the recommendation of a company, or providing positive comments about the company.

When your customers trust you, they would ask for advice and opinions because they would rely on the competence of the company. In addition, they would believe that the company would have only good intentions towards them, and that the company would have the ability to make true on any promises and commitments. As mentioned, for customers to interact regularly, a company would need to build a strong relationship with each one. The more customers interact, the higher would their expectations of sincerity and integrity be of a company. Customers expect companies to show trustworthiness in a proactive manner – that is, do things, which would give customers reason to trust them. Unfortunately, most companies today seem to fail on being trustworthy – this does not mean that they would be out to cheat customers, but it implies that companies do not have the capabilities to keep pace with the fast evolving needs of customers, and the hyper-interactive business world of today. The fact is if your customers trust you, their perceived value of the products and service offered by your company would be a lot higher as well. Research shows that if customers rated a company highly on trust, their ratings for the ‘perceived value’ of the company’s offering would be high too.

What can your company do to ensure that your customers trust you? The most basic and quintessential aspect in gaining customer trust is for a company to understand the expectations of its customers. Customers buy things based on a certain set of expectations they may have from the company and the offerings. The customer expectations are formed from the advertising and promotional activities of the company, from the customer’s past experience with the company, from the reviews of existing customers, and a number of other aspects, all of which would contribute to their expectations. However, when there is a gap between customer expectations and the experiences they have with a company, there is a definite erosion of satisfaction and trust levels. In order to ensure that your customers trust you, and continue to do so, it would be prudent for a company to ask customers what they expect, and what they believe would be the best way for the company to deliver on their expectations. Most often, companies would discover that ordinary and every day irregularities are the cause for dissatisfaction in customers – for example, inaccurate or delayed billing could be causing inconvenience to the customers.

In addition to understanding customer expectations, a company must also know whether its processes and procedures are causes for making the lives of customers easier, or reasons for upsetting them. It would be imperative for a company to ensure that it is easy for customers to conduct business with it, and that every touch-point in the company offers consistently good service to the customers. The company’s frontline service representatives should be knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly such that customers feel comfortable and welcome when interacting with them. The greater the warmth and comfort, the more likely it is that customers would trust the company, thereby offering more and repeat business. For your customers to trust you, it would be necessary to work at keeping them happy consistently. Monitoring customer buying patterns and their interactions with a company would provide sound leads as to whether customers would be likely to continue trusting the company, or whether they would soon leave out of frustration.

To know if your customers trust you, ensure that your company has a unique selling proposition (USP), which customers know of and understand clearly. A sound USP would let customers know why they should engage in business with a company as opposed to others in the market, and what benefits they would gain, which no one else in the market would be able to offer.

Do your customers trust you – this question applies to all companies and an affirmative answer would be essential in any business situation. If your customers trust you, they would respond in the affirmative when asked whether they think your company acts in their best interest. They would be enthusiastic about the company’s offerings and brand, and would be more than willing to spread the positive word of mouth, and even encourage their associates and friends to conduct business with the company. Meeting customer expectations, and finding ways to exceed them, is a sure way to create a company with a customer base consisting of raving fans and enthusiastic brand ambassadors. No business today would be able to survive for long if they do not have customer trust. Do your customers trust you?

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Reducing Customer Friction in all Interactions


March 6, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“You’re not in the business of selling things, you’re in the business of helping people buy things. The best way to help people buy the things you sell is by reducing customer friction points along the way.” – Kathi Kruse … Continued

“You’re not in the business of selling things, you’re in the business of helping people buy things. The best way to help people buy the things you sell is by reducing customer friction points along the way.” – Kathi Kruse

When people interact at close quarters, and on a consistent basis, friction is very likely. However, friction is the worst foe of customer experiences and can lead to some serious problems between the company and its customers. It makes sense therefore, for a company to put in measures for reducing customer friction in all interactions, such that the experiences customers have with a company are always pleasant and memorable. Hostility and conflicts can be extremely frustrating for customers, and demoralizing for the service employees, and if left unchecked can actually put an end to business growth from lack of customers. Studies show that at least 51% of customers ignore vendors after having poor interactions and receiving shoddy service from them. It would be essential and prudent therefore to device plans to help in reducing customer friction in all interactions, thereby reducing the number of hindrances in ‘customer journeys’.

We have mentioned previously that for a company to build better customer experiences, it would be prudent to rely on direct feedback from customers. They are the best persons to show a company its strengths and shortcomings, and even suggest ways to enhance and improve. However, if the feedback process is rife with problems and potential for conflict, the very purpose of gaining customer insights would be defeated, and customers would refuse to expend effort and time in providing constructive feedback. It would therefore be sensible for a company to take action for reducing customer friction in the feedback process, in order to get the maximum benefit from customer insights.

The feedback process is one among the many areas that companies need to focus on and aim at reducing customer friction. In order to smooth the path of feedback, a company must make efforts to gather feedback using the same media / channels that customers would seem more comfortable using. A company must make adequate preparation before launching any new method of gaining feedback – starting with the basic steps of the process to identifying possible places of customer friction, and put in steps to resolve them. It would make sense to solicit the help of a few trusted customers in the ‘test stages’ of the process, such that they could provide their honest opinion. Based on these inputs, the process could then be further strengthened and any possible obstacles, removed.

We have said in the past that most often customers have emotional reasons for their buying behaviour. Hence, in order to reduce customer friction, it would be essential for a company to understand those emotions by monitoring and measuring customer behaviour. A deeper understanding would lead a company to enhance the quality of customer experiences, which in turn would reduce customer friction with the company. Research shows, repeatedly so, that at least 78% customers leave transactions midway or do not make an intended purchase if they receive poor experiences and service from a company. This is an extremely huge percentage of business, which no company can afford to lose. Poor customer service is enough cause for customer friction, and such friction in turn elevates levels of distrust and dissatisfaction for a company. For customers even simple things such as long and complicated forms, tough to navigate sites, hard to locate action buttons, and other such things, amount to poor customer service. The fact is that there are several such subtle reasons for customer friction along the path of the customer’s journey with the company, and only companies that make the time to understand their customers would be successful in providing the kind of service that customers expect and deserve. Among the top ways to reduce customer friction is for a company to consistently study customer behaviour, view all interactions from their perspective, and constantly endeavour to delight its customers.

Another aspect that often becomes a reason for customer friction is the improper handling of customer data. Data about customers is crucial to help a company understand its customers a lot better, but this data must be collected, stored, and utilized with care. Many companies have faced ugly litigious situations owing to data leaks or misuse of customer information. Using secure CRM systems will enable a company to use customer data to increase business, provide better service, top class products, and consistently good experiences, without compromising on the safety and privacy of their customers. A company must stay cautious and not become data driven, since this leads to lowered empathy and personalization – two traits that every customer seeks in companies today. The inability to empathize with customers means that a company would be unable to relate to customers, which in turn would lead customers away from the company. One of the best ways then to reduce customer friction would be for a company to enhance its ability to relate to customers and understand their needs, and reasons that would keep them as customers.

If a company were unable to minimize customer friction, it would begin to lose customers, which would mean a loss of sales and profits, and over time closure. Reducing customer friction is all about providing support, care, and expertise throughout the ‘customer’s journey’ with the company, making the relationship effortless and smooth sailing for the customers. If customers ‘struggle’ during any interactions with a company, they would rarely blame their own lack of knowledge or other reasons for the conflict. Instead, they would see the ‘tough interaction’ as a cause for friction, and would turn to a company that made it easier for them. Customer friction keeps customers from further engaging with a brand, possibly spreading negative word of mouth, and reflects poorly on a company and its ability to serve customers. If there were customer friction, it would mean that a company could be ‘guilty’ of poor customer service and apathy towards its customers, and most definitely towards its employees too.

Customer friction would affect a company’s entire business, since it is due to customers that a company runs, and losing customers would mean that a company ceases to be successful, which in turn could lead employees, investors, and other ‘partners’ to leave it. It is therefore imperative for a company to identify the various points that could lead to customer friction, or would have been the cause of such friction in the past. The fact is customers hate conflicts and obstacles while conducting business, however, the truth is that when people interact, some amount of friction would be a given. It is the onus of companies to however, keep such reasons and ‘occasions’ to the bare minimum, and proactively find ways to keep customers happy. Any points or reasons that would drive customers away must be tackled and done away with immediately.

We all are human and desire ease, trust, likeability, and convenience. This must therefore be the focus of companies for all their customers – finding new ways to offer customers these attributes. Proactively give customers reasons to stay, buy, and propagate your company and its offerings. Customer friction prevents customers from making emotional connections and forming robust bonds with a company. In the absence of such connections, it is a lot easier for competitors to ‘steal’ customers away. How good is your company at keeping customer friction at bay?

 

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Benefits of Customer Service Training


March 5, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Training helps teach the vision and mission, but employees must put the training into action for it to have meaning.” – Shep Hyken Much is said all the time about the importance of customer service and its potential to boost … Continued

“Training helps teach the vision and mission, but employees must put the training into action for it to have meaning.” – Shep Hyken

Much is said all the time about the importance of customer service and its potential to boost sales and profits because of elevated customer satisfaction levels. Customer service is also the surest way to mould customer behavior in favor of the company, encouraging customers to buy more and spread the positive word of mouth to others. Despite these obvious and long-term benefits, many companies often overlook this realm, which in turn means that customer service training plays second fiddle. Companies pump resources into training that would revolve around sales and marketing since making a profit would be all-important. What companies seem to forget is that customer service encompasses all the aspects of the business – activities before, during, and an after a customer makes a purchase. For these reasons, customer service training can prove to be a highly beneficial investment, as its essence would be to enhance the way a business serves the section of people who bring in money and are the reason for profits and success.

There is no company today, for which customer service would not be important – the intensity of service could differ depending on the industry, offerings, company business, and the customer base. Even then, there would always be scope for improvement – especially because customer needs and personalities continue to change and evolve, and without adequate customer service training, the representatives would be ill equipped to provide assistance to the varying needs and personalities. From the company’s perspective, among the top benefits of customer service training is that would ensure that the service representatives consistently reflect and display its core values, adhere to the culture, and keep the ultimately goals of the company in mind. The fact is that customer service is not an easy job, especially since service representatives have several tasks within their role. Not only must they strike a healthy balance between customer needs and company goals, but they are expected also to act as confidantes, have product information, details of delivery status, and several other major and minute details with regard to the company. Customers have very little patience today, and can be quite unforgiving of delays, lapses, and even service staff that seems ill equipped to handle their queries. Customer service training is therefore extremely important and indispensable to a company’s success.

To gain the maximum benefits of customer service training, a company would need to change its approach and outlook towards this activity. Customer service training must be viewed as a method to achieve overall efficient and systematic improvement of the company, with the aim of generating more revenue and a higher profit margin. Research shows that 70% of buying takes place based on the customer’s perceptions of the company’s treatment of and behavior towards them. It is only through top class service that a company can address the customer’s needs, alleviate their problems, and ensure speedy service recovery in the event of a service lapse. Irrespective of the quality your employees, or superlative offerings, the top requirement of customers is to be treated with courtesy and respect. Customers remember the interactions, long after they would have no use of the company’s products. Most customers walk away silently and never return if they receive shoddy service, whilst others not only make their displeasure known to the company, but also spread negative word of mouth through every channel of communication available to them. It is the onus of a company to get closer to their customers, through the employees, who in turn must provide elevated levels of service – possible only through consistent and relevant customer service training.

“Customer service is not a department. It’s a philosophy to be embraced by everyone in an organization. Everyone plays their part in contributing to a customer’s experience” – Shep Hyken. Using this quote as an example and inspiration, it is obvious then that service must be an essential part of everyone’s job and responsibility area. It would be impossible for the service teams to provide top class service if all departments and employees therein were not aligned towards the cause of customer service. For a company to sustain its business, remain successful in the long term, and build robust relationships with customers, good customer service is essential. It is becomes crucial therefore, for companies to consistently provide customer service training for all the employees.

Through effective and regular training, service representatives would understand the criticality and crucial nature of their role. They would remain aware of the kind of service their company aims to provide to customers, and constantly endeavor to match the expectations. Relevant customer service training helps employees understand the mission and long-term vision of the company, and their role in achieving the same, while contributing to their own success. In addition, relevant training provides service representatives with the opportunity to develop their skills of handling customer complaints and forging emotional connections with them. As mentioned, customers are becoming less tolerant of service representatives who fail to resolve their problems or give them suitable responses to their queries. Customers are of all types – and it takes skillful handling to manage their varying personalities and emotions, without offending and adding to their frustration. Customer service training empowers the representatives through knowledge and skill to make appropriate and swift decisions, required to resolve all kinds of queries and complaints.

There is absolutely no doubt that customer service is a tough job, and in order to do it well on a sustained basis, a company must afford as much support possible to the employees directly responsible for this role. Customer service training helps the service employees to become adept at pre-empting customer queries, and in understanding their expectations. This in turn ensures that they are less likely to be caught unawares when faced with an unusually tough customer / situation, and would be ready to handle anything. Service training teaches employees to remain calm when faced with irate customers, and seemingly harsh complaints. Employees would understand that the customer’s frustration is not directed at them personally, and hence they would refrain from becoming defensive and rude. Empathy and patience are virtues, however, in customer service they are also skills that each service employee must possess and display. Handling customers with empathy and patience would make even the angriest customer amenable to listening calmly to the suggestions offered by the staff.

In today’s business world, no company and business can work and succeed in a vacuum. Everyone needs the support of their customers, employees, and other business associates in order to realize their goals and objectives. One of the top ways to insure success is by improving the quality of service to customers, achievable through regular and relevant customer service training. The fact is that today businesses can no longer compete on products, services, and even low prices. They need a USP – something that will make them stand out and appear unique – this today would be top class customer experiences made possible through service excellence. Providing exemplary service will provide the critical to success individuality for a company, and such service can only happen through exemplary service representatives who would need regular customer service training to keep their skills and knowledge updated and matched to the expectations of customers.

Upgrading skills and knowledge should be a never-ending process and especially in the case of service representatives, customer service training can deliver huge advantages, both the company, and its customers. If your company still neglects customer service training, you may as well shut shop now.

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Making Your Brand Indispensable for Customers


March 4, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to become indispensable is to be different. That’s because if you’re the same, so are plenty of other people.” – Seth Godin Every company today wishes that … Continued

“You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to become indispensable is to be different. That’s because if you’re the same, so are plenty of other people.” – Seth Godin

Every company today wishes that no other business has what it does, and that no other company would have the same products and services or brand offerings. Making and keeping ones brand indispensable for customers is what every brand aspires. It would be a great feeling to be ‘the’ brand that customers turn to and buy, without question and apprehension. Making the brand indispensable for customers is the underlying premise of customer loyalty. When a brand is able to make its customers feel like they cannot manage without it, and that their world is incomplete without the brand in it, such a brand would be powerful and indispensable. The more customers feel that they cannot live without a brand, the closer a brand moves towards becoming indispensable and ensuring that pricing is rendered irrelevant.

Making your brand indispensable for customers is about showing customers what the brand stands for, independent of competition. Smart brands lead because they show purpose and relevance, and amply display how they can positively influence the lives of customers. Once customers are convinced of the usefulness and efficacy of its brand, it becomes a lot easier for a company to use that as the basis to mould customer behaviour in its favour, on a consistent basis. As we mentioned in a previous exposition, knowing customers is essential to success and hence, in order to make your brand indispensable for customers a brand must understand what its users try to accomplish in their lives on a daily basis. A brand must know why and when users buy the products the most, which platforms and technology do they use to connect, and what they expect to achieve from doing so. Indispensability of a brand would come about by uncovering the areas where it can add true value and relevance to the lives of the users.

Given that technology has increased the number of channels of communication and connecting, several brands believe that adding channels and upgrading technology would be the best way to attract customers. The mistake lies in the fact that most of these channels and technology might not be useful for customers. Brands seeking indispensability are a lot smarter – they add technology based on usefulness and relevance for the users, ensuring that they weave together inextricably with the behaviour and needs of the users. The premise behind everything a company does should be to create value and to satisfy the needs of customers – it is never a good idea to add or remove anything simply because ‘everyone else is doing so’ or assuming that it would be something that users could want.

By combining the understanding of their customers with the ultimate goal of the company, would enable a brand to innovate experiences. While a brand must be useful for its customers, this would not suffice over time. This must ultimately change to being a brand, which customers cannot do without – making your brand indispensable for customers is what must ultimately replace differentiation. An indispensable brand would be one that makes the lives of its users easier by keeping costs low, reducing time and effort, and providing seamless and effortless service.

Another core aspect of making your brand indispensable for customers is to humanize it. Humanizing or personalizing your brand is about understanding the feelings, emotions, moods, and needs of the users, and helping them to relate positively to the brand because they feel that all their needs would be met through the brand. Of course, it is harder for some brands to appear humanized, and if they try too hard could seem like they have a false personality, which could put customers off for good. Genuineness resonates with customers, and they are quick to perceive affected goodness. To make your brand indispensable for customers, create opportunities for them to interact with your brand, build their own credibility, and in turn want to promote your brand. Invite your top customers to write blogs or articles for your web presence -using it as content for videos, or educational webinars. In addition, a company could invite guest speakers from its customers to address gatherings at events, publish their books and or white papers on their online sites – all great ways to provide visibility and lend trust to the brand and the customer, before a large audience.

Apart from top class service, and relevance, another part of getting customers accustomed to a brand is by unfailingly offering great service and products. However, Top class offerings are now a given, with customers expecting this to be the case, and hence cannot be the point of differentiation for a company. The underlying principle of any efforts of a brand / company would be consistency. Customers do not accept erratic behaviours – they want a brand to be consistently great, reliable, accurate, polite, and friendly – and this should be true of any touch-point and every location the company would have its presence.

Customers connect with a brand to make their lives better and easier. Why would they engage with a brand that would make them ‘work harder’ to buy or conduct business? Today the brands that have become indispensable for customers, have in common the fact they make it easy and most convenient for customers to buy, return, exchange, pay, and even get support. The rules and guidelines of such brands exist to make it easier for customers. The ‘successful’ brands of today are so because they make customers feel special and wanted – they exist to make customers feel like the centre of their universe. If you want to make your brand indispensable for customers, just follow and emulate what these great brands do with regard to their customers.

No company / brand can work without its employees – employees who would feel empowered, energized, and would be willing to do whatever it takes to make customers feel comfortable and happy. If you want to make your brand indispensable for customers, ensure that your employees are happy first – they feel cared for enough, to become evangelists and ambassadors of the brand. Their love and respect for the brand would brim over, reflecting in their manner of behaving with customers, which in turn would lead to happy customers, eventually making the brand and the company extremely successful. Additionally, top brands know that in order to become indispensable, the employees must be highly skilled and trained such that they can educate customers on the benefits and features of the brand and products – as opposed to selling. This means keeping the best interest of customers at heart, whether the company is able to sell to them or not. Constantly pushing new products at customers even though the ‘new’ products may not be relevant or useful to customers, would over time result in customers distrusting the company, and abandoning the brand altogether.

The most important thing to remember when trying to make your brand indispensable for customers is never to take success and customers for granted. It is about striving for excellence in everything the company does, and through everyone in the company. While indispensability is a dream goal, and achievable to some extent, brands must remain humble and grounded in the knowledge that despite their efforts, they would be replaceable. Working through such humility would help to sustain the brand’s indispensability for longer.

 

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How well do you Know Your Customers


March 3, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“If you don’t know who your customer is, you don’t know what quality is” – Eric Ries Seems pretty obvious and straightforward – know your customers if you want to succeed in your business. It is a cliché in marketing … Continued

“If you don’t know who your customer is, you don’t know what quality is” – Eric Ries

Seems pretty obvious and straightforward – know your customers if you want to succeed in your business. It is a cliché in marketing and public relations teams, whose business it is to understand the current, and prospective customer base of the company. With such understanding, it becomes a lot easier for a company to provide specific solutions and customized products. The purpose of every business is to fulfil the unmet needs of customers, and alleviate their problems and pain areas. When you make a concerted effort to know your customers, it would reflect in everything your company would do – its processes, policies, guidelines, and employees, all would reflect the company’s commitment to understanding the customers.

In today’s business world, companies have no choice but to become and remain focused on the customer. The emphasis is shifting from an internal focus to the main source of a company’s profits and success – its customers. This change of focus is the result of several factors, having a profound effect on how a company conducts business. With so much competition, globalization, saturation of domestic markets and segments, and most importantly the surge in the importance of the internet, companies cannot afford to keep an internal focus. Customers today are far too smart and demanding to settle for less than the best. Owing to technology, they have the power to compare prices, products, companies, and brands – choosing those that seem to fit their values and meet their needs the best. Additionally, they are increasingly prone to check online comments and reviews of other users before making a decision. It would make sense to know your customers if you expect to keep pace with their evolving needs, and changing preferences, lest they shift their attention to your nearest and fiercest competitor.

We know that attracting customers is a lot harder than retaining the current ones. The primary reason for this could be the inability to know your customers, which in turn makes it harder to differentiate your company from other players in the market. Anyone can create products and services, set up systems and business processes, however, unless the target customers find them useful and valuable, a company would not succeed. Today, conventional marketing methods are no longer sufficient to generate viable leads, and it is the customers who are empowered and do not hesitate to place their demands of budget, requirements, timelines, and expectations. When you know your customers, giving them exactly what they want becomes a lot easier.

Know your customers, is a term that goes beyond just the realm of business today. In order to attract new customers, retain the existing ones and create customer brand ambassadors, it is critical for a company to maximize the value it provides to each customer. The better you know your customers, the easier it would be for your company to demonstrate why it is the most appropriate ‘partner’, and how it can provide for the needs of the customers better than anyone else can in the market. The fact is there are several companies today vying for the business of the same set of customers. If you know your customers better than your competition does, it would be easier to outsmart the competition. As mentioned, knowing customers is not just about who they are, or what they buy, but more importantly understanding their current emotions, feelings, and wants in the current moment. Using this knowledge a company would be able to create high quality interactions and experiences for the customers, ensuring that each one is insightful, relevant, and personalized. Having such experiences consistently would naturally lead to an increase in customer satisfaction levels. Enhanced customer satisfaction sets the ‘ball rolling’ for more business, glowing testimonials, and valuable referrals.

Despite all the advantages of knowing customers, some businesses still do not know enough about their customers. They are unable to or neglect the analysis of market data, possibly because there is so much with which to contend, and can often seem overwhelming. Companies struggle with the information, which in turn leaves them befuddled and unable to understand who the customers are, what they want, how they expect to get it, and how fast they want the company to deliver. When you know your customers, these questions would be a lot easier to answer, and should be something that all companies seek to do. This need, to know the customers is why CRM systems are now being used increasingly – it is easier to collect, collate, update, store, and use customer data as and when required. This data can be shared across the business for all involved, in order to work cohesively and shape the overall customer experiences.

Another reason to know your customers is to increase profitability. Information about and from customers is called customer intelligence, and can help a company know the impact each business unit has on the customers. Understanding whether or not your business is helping customers and providing them with personalized experiences, would enable a company to make amends to ensure that customers get what they expect. The reason so many companies fail at meeting customer expectations is that they are constantly trying to catch up with customer demands. This would happen to your company if you do not know your customers, and only when customers express their dissatisfaction with your company, would you know where you failed. It makes more business sense to implement strategies and methods that enable your company to pre-empt their needs, and proactively serve customers, which would influence customers in a company’s favour.

When you know your customers, you would know why they buy from you, how they use the products, the experiences they have with the products, and what your company can do to enhance their experiences and satisfaction levels. A company that sincerely cares about knowing its customers, would not rest on laurels, but would continually search for ways to improve its product or services, find new products to meet the evolving needs of customers, and make every effort to keep the existing customers happy. Following these most basic principles would display a company’s ability and commitment to know its customers. Of course, the best way to know your customers is to speak with them directly and regularly. Customers are ‘goldmines’ of information, and if a company is truly interested in its customers, making the time and effort to speak face to face with them would be extremely worthwhile. As mentioned, customers are busy, and even if they do have something to say, they may not simply because of lack of time or easy options to do so.

As companies grow and prosper, the focus shifts from knowing the customers to assuming that the company already knows what they need, owing to many years of experience and a large existing customer base. Companies become entrenched and caught up with their internal processes such as reducing operational costs, and finding ways to increasing their profit margins. This is not a bad way to look at ones business, but neglecting the main reason for being in business is definitely a self-defeating approach. Customers soon begin to feel neglected, and experiences and products seem generalized and ‘mass made’ leading them to leave the company eventually, for one that would pay individualized attention. To know your customers is the first and most basic step in serving them well, and today service to customers is the top differentiator and unique selling proposition for companies with similar offerings. Does your company fare well in knowing its customers?

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