“For us, our most important stakeholder is not our stockholders, it is our customers. We’re in business to serve the needs and desires of our core customer base,” – John Mackey
A business enterprise can face multiple challenges in the course of doing business. These challenges include dealing with customers, consolidating and preserving business confidence, dealing with the vicissitudes of fluid market situations, geo-political risks attendant on doing business, conversing with market regulators, government policies prone to changes, working with suppliers, foreign exchange fluctuations, among many others. The many moving parts inherent in conducting a modern business have to be balanced finely to keep the business moving in unison with corporate imperatives. In this article, we intend to delineate the various options available to a business in terms of working with empowered customers.
We must bear in mind that an empowered customer can be a difficult individual. The business and its customer service representatives must do everything in their power to deal fairly with such customers. A demanding customer can pose a challenge to the modern business enterprise because such customers have high levels of expectation and may want the very best in terms of products and services. One strategy to deal with such a customer is to assign specific customer service personnel to deal with said customer – doing this can result in a payoff because the dedicated customer service representative can map the demands and study the mind-set of the said customer in the course of multiple interactions. The business benefit of such a strategy may lie in the creation of a body of knowledge that – over time – outlines proven methods of dealing with difficult customers. This knowledge can be leveraged in future customer interactions and may help to widen the customer base. Interactions with difficult customers can also help staff members in terms of gaining experience in dealing with tough business situations. Therefore, an enterprise should encourage the learning process because such learning can bring out the best in customer service executives.
The empowered customer also presents an opportunity for a business to introspect and re-examine the validity of business processes in changing times. The empowered customer is aware of his rights, stays firm on expectations, knows exactly what he / she wants, and is well aware of the many offerings in the market. The business enterprise should acknowledge these realities and present a professional face to the empowered customer. Establishing a rapport with the customer can be a starting point in dealing with such customers. The customer must be convinced that the business is offering him / her best possible solutions. This approach may enable the empowered customer to gain trust in the business; an extended impact of such an approach may win new customers when the said customer transmits his / her confidence in the ability of the business to deliver on its promises. The bottom line here lies in the fact that the customer should never be taken for granted. Each customer is a unique individual and should be treated as such: this can be a motto for the modern business enterprise.
The management cadre of a business enterprise should take the initiative to create its public face and its corporate image with care. This is important because every business attempts to stand out in an increasingly connected world wherein, multiple enterprises are offering similar products and services. Creating rock-solid customer service protocols may represent one approach to the said task. Further, transmitting a unified vision of excellent customer service down the lowest rungs of the enterprise may help to create a unique corporate culture centred round service to the customer. However, business outcomes need to be borne in mind at all times – a refined customer service experience can be a stepping-stone in that direction. These methods can be further refined to equip the enterprise to deal with empowered customers. These individuals should be dealt with carefully because the emphatic voice of these customers can validate the cherished corporate image of the said enterprise.
A commercial organization can choose to leverage its heritage and its business traditions in an attempt to deal with empowered customers. A spotless corporate reputation can help to assure customers that their money is well spent and that the enterprise they are dealing with is a custodian of impeccable business values. Such an impression cannot be created in a few short weeks; it has to be cultivated over time in every sphere of business activity. This impression can also be used to convince the empowered customer that the business intends to remain operational for a very long time and is not prone to make quick gains to bolster its short-term business performance. Corporate managers and business heads can make it a point to send such messages during interactions with empowered customers. Customer testimonials from past interactions can be used as a tool to impress the empowered customer. These methods are sure to send out a business-friendly message to empowered customers.
Modern corporate thinking indicates that one of the best options of getting the empowered customer on board is to make him a virtual partner in the enterprise. This means that the customer becomes a significant stakeholder and deserves to be treated as such. It also means that business leaders have to pay close attention to the points of view offered by a customer and seriously assess the efficacy of such thoughts. Business operations and processes may need to be re-examined and modified to accommodate relevant customer inputs. The real world impact of such changes may have to be anticipated so to arrest any chances of adverse outcomes. Moreover, with the customer as a stakeholder, the enterprise can count on the empowered customer to bring more business to the enterprise. The customer can also be relied upon to provide honest feedback to the business; this information can be used to refine products and services, and thereby boost business outcomes. The experience and tact of top management personnel can be harnessed in the service of achieving such outcomes. Clearly, such an approach can work wonders for the commercial fortunes of a business enterprise.
A business must also device appropriate follow-up procedures to track interactions with empowered customers. Internal processes can be put in place to track interactions and their outcomes. The customer may be kept in the loop and significant aspects of such interactions can be shared through electronic communications. These actions will convince the empowered customer that the commercial organization values their business; the ensuing customer goodwill can enhance business outcomes. Steady momentum should be built into such business processes and these may be periodically reviewed by corporate management. These practices can serve to enhance corporate reputations, while boosting intangibles such as customer loyalty and its many beneficial after-effects.
In the preceding paragraphs, we have sought to create a picture of some of the techniques that can be used to deal with empowered customers. We have to bear in mind that these entities are critical to business success, because successful interactions can enable the business to achieve higher performance levels. The empowered customers represent a prime challenge to modern business acumen and therefore, should be handled with care.