“Customers like choices. They want to be empowered by what A La Carte gives them.” – Mark Nichols
The market today is booming – there are several new companies on the scene now, each offering a set of options. For any company, growing its business and expanding its customer base is a tough task because of so much competition. The obvious strategy then to accelerate growth and gain sustainable profits would be to offer choices to customers within the company. The fact is that customers not only have choices of products and services, they also have a large ‘buffet’ of channels through which they can keep a check on the trends and happenings in the business world. Social media, the highly visible and easily accessible platform could be a cause of worry for companies that are unable to provide choices to customers and options to appeal to a wider customer base. What customers say on these platforms – good and bad – are visible to everyone and it is a fact that customers talk more vociferously about their poor experiences rather than the good ones. Smart companies, however, remain undeterred by this high visibility and focus their energy of providing an assorted ‘basket’ – a wide array of choices for their customers. They understand that within a single family, for example, there could be multi-generational customers and if all in the family can get whatever they want from a single company, they would be more loyal and recommend it to others too.
Giving choices to customers is part of delivering high levels of customer service – a vital part of any company’s success. Every company must endeavour to become a global leader by offering multi-channel support, top quality service, and a range of products and services – all different forms of choices for customers. The demand for a larger number of choices is not limited to the younger demographic of customers – a research showed that a very large number of people over 60 years of age used social media to gain access to customer service and product offerings. The larger the number of choices to customers the more important and engaging companies become for customers. Of course, it is also true that with so many choices, customers sometimes are paralyzed with confusion and fear – unable to make decisions to buy. This is where smart companies excel – they promote and market their offerings extremely well and so stand out from the crowd, leading to a lot of positive attention from customers.
Through well-crafted and large variety of offerings and top class customer service, a company would build trust and confidence. They would help to simplify the choices to customers, thereby assisting in their decision making process. It is a fact that customers are drawn towards companies that make their lives simpler and yet give them whatever they want. Through varied yet simplified choices to customers, a company can enhance customer satisfaction levels, reduce customer churn rates, and become a preferred vendor and partner for them. On the other hand, companies that confuse customers by the choices they offer, would soon have irreparable damage and problems on their hands.
Customers like choices and companies that offer useable choices to customers, would benefit tremendously. The basic premise of customer service is to know and understand the customers. Based on this understanding a company would be able to offer choices to customers. The first step therefore, is to identify and remain connected with your customers. This would include being on the same social media networks as them, soliciting their feedback and advice, forming community and discussion groups, and allowing them to reach out to you whenever and wherever they want. Offering choices to customers would not be of much use if a company were to fail at providing speedy, efficient, and real-time service to its customers. The number of choices to customers would require backing by consistent monitoring of customer queries and regular updates on the choices. These efforts must reflect throughout the company – working in silos or making them the sole responsibility of the customer service teams would be a sure-shot path to failure. Every interaction through every touch-point would require consistent good experiences and accurate information provided to customers. There really would be no point in offering a plethora of choices to customers, without ensuring that your company has the infrastructure and commitment required in maintaining a high level of service to match the choices.
If offering choices to customers is such an obvious manner to gain more business, why do some companies fall short? The reason probably lies in the ‘umbrella’ mentality – these companies believe that every customer within a particular segment probably share the same tastes. This is not true even for customers, for example, from the same age groups. By limiting the choices to customers, a company is possibly ignoring a very large customer base that could potentially prove beneficial for them. The process of creating customer profiles and consistently updating them should never stop since customers constantly evolve and their needs and expectations change. In order to offer the most appropriate and customized choices to customers, a company must gather as much data about their customers from every channel and source. Every piece of data would contribute towards a better understanding of the customers – making it easier to provide them with choices that would actually prove useful and readily useable for them.
Customers give out information and feedback all the time. For example – by monitoring the amount of time a customer spent on the company’s website, or whether they abandoned a shopping cart midway, or whether their buying habits and preferences seem to have changed suddenly – are all different types of unspoken information that customers provide. By using all the information about a customer, a company can put together a more holistic strategy and be better positioned to create choices that customers would love and be able to use instantly.
Creating and providing choices to customers does require significant planning – just as all other business imperatives. A company must put together options and choices that even customers on a tight budget would be able to buy – for example students are most probably on a fixed monthly pocket money sum – so providing for this group too would increase the total sales for the company. For other higher end customers, the choices could be fancier and come with additional features and ‘frills’. Bringing choices to customers is about giving them the choices they can afford too.
Another version of providing choices to customers is to package an assortment of a number of services and products. These ‘mix and match’ packages would actually create a different product that could be more attractive for a completely different set of customers. By giving choices to customers, a company would be freeing itself of the limitations and would be able to compete in a wider market and customer base. Customers prefer companies that seem to capture all their needs under a single roof – for example a company selling books would do well to also have other products like stationery, DIY kits, toys for kids and whole range of products that people would want to buy when shopping for books.
By propagating the idea of choices to customers, we do not mean that every company can offer every type and kind of product – that would just be silly. However, what we are saying is that when creating choices for customers, companies must remember that not all customers are alike and by adding variety and giving choices to customers, a company can expand its customer base and gain more profits than would be possible by catering to just one type of customer. By giving more choices to customers, your company would be able to capture their business and engage them for a sustained period. Are you up for the challenge?