Companies and Customers – understanding each other

“If you understand everything, you must be misinformed” – Japanese Proverb

In the rapidly changing market environment it is never possible to know everything about customers since what is known today becomes obsolete the next. Companies and Customers understanding each other, is about companies constantly monitoring the customers words, their behavior and needs. When companies pay attention, customers are able to understand them better in the direction of customer service. For almost all companies being able to understand customers is the route to success and not doing so paves the path for failure. Companies must be constantly driven to understanding their customers and must inculcate this culture such that everyone in the organization knows that it is their individual responsibility as well. This is irrespective of the job role of the individual – appreciating the fact that understanding the customer helps in achieving the company’s goals and in turn the individual’s goals, will allow companies and customers to understand each other better.

To establish the importance of companies and customers to understand each other, companies must drive home the fact that customers have an influence on the company.

– Customers are constantly providing information and ideas of how companies can provide better service. It is only when companies pay attention and remain in contact with customers, will they be able to benefit from these ideas. By remain in touch with customers, companies can gain invaluable insights in to the future trends that customers are likely to create and the kinds of products and or services they would like to see.

– When companies and customers understand each other, they will know that the actions taken by either will affect everyone. For example if the customer does not like a product or feels that it does not serve their purpose any longer, a major portion of the company’s employees would be pressed in to taking corrective action. If a company does not provide the kind of customer service and products that customers seek, then there is a great deal of discomfort and hassle for the customer. They may decide to stop business with the company too and that also translates in to inconvenience for the customer as they would need to start the process for finalizing another company to do business with. None of these factors can positively impact a company and therefore it is imperative that companies and customers understand each other.

– Customers are the very basis for an organization to do and remain in business. Without customers there is really no basis for a company. On the other hand, customers too need great companies to work with and ideally would not like to give up an association. Companies and customers together make businesses run and also provide employment to a large number of people.

It seems so obvious on the face of it that companies and customers must understand each other. However, the truth is that companies still struggle with how to achieve this repeatedly. When companies and customers understand each other well, they would know that no two companies and customers are alike. What works in one situation and with one customer, does not necessarily have to be liked by another. Companies must assess and understand which effort or change would be appreciated by their customers and what would be seen as unnecessary.

Another aspect of companies and customers understanding each other is the way and different touch points through which they interact. While customers must appreciate the effort put in by companies to ensure the interactions are smooth, companies must ensure that each touch point services the customer with the highest level of customer service. The different touch points through which a customer may contact a company are:

– Face to face interactions – where the customer visits the customer’s office premises and has discussions or when a company representative visits the office premises or residence of a customer for an interaction.
– Contacting the company via telephone for any kind of query or to make a complaint
– Contact via the internet – a company’s website hosting a self-help section, having a 24×7 live chat page, updated and regular comments via social media
– Self-help kiosks at key locations such as airports, malls, railway stations and such areas provide help to customers and serve as a touch point
– Repair and product support personnel representing a company too are interaction points for customers. Knowledgeable and skilled personnel can have a positive influence on the customer whereas a representative that is rude and dispassionate can have quite the opposite reaction.

Maintaining uniform great service and managing customer queries well can be a formidable task for any company. If companies and customers understand each other they would be better able to communicate with each other. Customers would be able to know how to best use these touch-points and other services provided by the company rather than having unrealistic expectations. The companies on the other hand would at all times provide the highest level of customer service that is personalized to the customer being served. Understanding the customer would remove ambiguity and reduce the chances of landing up in conflicting situations. Companies and customers understanding each other is a win-win situation for both as neither will be frustrated and question the other’s intentions. Of course, the onus always lies with companies to serve their customers with the best that would in turn lead them to a level of understanding that allows them to overlook minor service lapses.

The onus begins with, for most companies, by putting in place a Customer Relationship Management system. It is a system that would permeate the entire organization and would serve to instruct all concerned with how to interact and treat customers such that they remain with the company and also attract other customers for the company. Each one must remain focused on providing timely, accurate and friendly service to all customers and this must be consistent across all customer service touch-points as well. CRM not only focuses on current customers, but also former ones. Being able to reach out to such customers with renewed focus and current information does have the potential of making these former customers, current. In addition, locating and focusing on potential customers is also possible through the proper utilization of the CRM method. These consumers must be able to see value in what the company is providing and also pick up positive signals from the market place as to the quality of customer service they are capable of. Companies and customers, all kinds, must understand each other in order for the business scenario to be profitable and sustainable for all.

Customer service and relationship management can only be successful when there is a strong commitment on the part of the company to make it so. It would not be unwise to suggest that customers too should want it to work and provide their support in these endeavors. No amount of effort on the part of companies will be successful without the support of customers.

To maintain close, profitable and sustained relationships is really a matter of both companies and customers understanding and appreciating each other. It is about respecting the time, effort and intentions in order to get the best and most of the relationship. Companies must first undertake to ensure that their employees are well-trained and skilled, technology used is updated, responses to customers are prompt and accurate, over deliver and under promise and customer feedback is elicited and used appropriately. When customers perceive a well-rounded and committed company, they are more likely to partner with them and also make efforts to sustain the relationship. Companies and customers understanding each other is really an essential factor for the successful running of the businesses of both the customers and the company.

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”- Damon Richards

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