THE HABITS OF CUSTOMER-OBSESSED FIRMS

THE HABITS OF CUSTOMER-OBSESSED FIRMS

The evidence is in: customer-centric companies are far more successful than those that neglect their clients. Read on to find out how you can offer stand-out service too… 

I’d go as far as to say that the return on investment for good customer management is that your business will still be around five years from now. But, what is it that makes one company better at customer service than another? 

In its simplest form, effective customer management comes down to five broad strategies: 

  • Find out what your customers want and do your best to give it to them. And be better at it than your competitors.
  • Identify and win over the customers that you desire based on their needs and characteristics, but be careful to avoid those customers you don’t want.
  • Retain desirable customers through meaningful retention and loyalty strategies that emphasize innovative valu0adds and put relationships first.
  • Grow the value of those customers to your business through cross-sales and up-sales, and by proactively using the power of referrals and recommendations.
  • Constantly work on reducing the cost to serve your customers without compromising the business relationship. 

Of course, these broad goals need to be translated into meaningful steps that can be implemented in your business. I have listed these below, and you should be able to rate your company’s performance in all these spheres without too much trouble. 

AUTHENTIC MANAGEMENT COMMITMENT

Is your leadership team in agreement on key business goals and priorities in customer management? Do they understand the importance of a strong service culture to achieve these goals? Do they really ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to customer management, or is it just lip service? Is there a ‘Chief Customer Officer’ responsible for customer experience? 

CUSTOMER VALUE PROPOSITION

Do you have a clear customer value proposition that describes what kind of ‘perfect experiences’ you want your customers to have when they deal with your business, and is it unique? Do all your employees and partners clearly understand your service vision and act to make it real every day? Is the CVP translated down to individual level for every employee? 

MEASUREMENTS 

Are your current strategic measures aligned with your service vision as well as business priorities, or do you measure traditional financial metrics only? 

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

Have you mapped out all of the key customer ‘moments of truth’ or touch points, and do you have a visceral and deep understanding of what they like and don’t like about your business? 

CUSTOMER NEEDS AND DESIRES 

Do you have an active and formal process that helps you to deeply understand all of your customers’ changing needs, wants, desires, expectations, and fears? Do you also have similar information about perceptions and expectations of your non-customers, including your rivals’ customers, that don’t buy your products/services? Do you include the ‘voice of the customer’ in communications? How do you capture ‘the voice of our customer’? And do you share it widely throughout the organisation? 

CUSTOMER RETENTION AND LOYALTY 

Do you have visible, irresistible and proactive programmes/processes that ensure effective customer retention, and encourage cross-sales and up-sales to increase your ‘share of wallet’ and ‘share of market’? Do you recognise, reward and celebrate your best customers and formally show them that you appreciate their business? 

VALUABLE CUSTOMERS VERSUS THE LONG TAILS 

Can you determine the worth of individual customers or segments of customers? Not just by sales revenue, but by gross profit having subtracted cost of sales, cost of servicing, and cost of communicating. Are you targeting the right customers with your efforts, ensuring that you don’t waste resources where the results are poor? And do you have a process to manage, discipline or even fire non-profitable customers? 

KNOWLEDGE OF CUSTOMERS 

Do you have a customer intelligence process or system that provides powerful information about all the important aspects of your customers’ businesses or lives? Do you use this information to add value? Do you use it to gain advantage over rivals, and to foster loyalty? 

REFERRALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 

Do you have a formal programme in place to mobilise the power of referrals, recommendations and customer testimony? Do you keep in touch with your most important customers at least once every 60 days in a manner that is relevant, anticipated and personalised? 

CONSEQUENCES 

Does every single employee in your organisation understand the benefits of customer loyalty, and the price you pay when you mess things up? And do they completely understand their role in creating delighted customers – no matter how far back in the value chain they operate? 

PEOPLE BEHAVIOUR AND ATTITUDE 

Does this knowledge and insight translate into customer-focused behaviour where customers’ interests are put first, and where every employee takes full responsibility for all of customer experiences? Do you recruit the right people in the first place? Are your employees trained, motivated and committed to giving constant superior customer care? Can you all identify your top 20% of customers? Do communications with employees, including training courses, coaching sessions, briefings, meetings, newsletters, and all other media, regularly feature service issues and achievements? And do you recognise, reward and celebrate employees who give superior external service to customers and internal service to colleagues? 

PROBLEMS, COMPLAINTS AND UNHAPPINESS 

When breakdowns occur in customer experiences, does your complain management system respond immediately, with empathy, consistently and in a positive manner to ensure ‘customer bounce-back’? Is your complain recovery worth talking about because it was legendary? And do you have a process to ensure complete prevention when things go wrong? 

VALUE INNOVATION 

Are you any good at value innovation to create customer loyalty? Does the service improvement process seek new ideas from every employee and every customer? What percentage of ideas is about improvements or added value for customers, rather than saving money for the company? Are these give priority? 

LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW 

Do you benchmark customer management performance against companies both inside, and outside your industry, and even beyond our borders? Have you identified global best practices for the industry? And is this information translated into action through idea-generation sessions? 

TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT 

Are you ahead of the game when it comes to using technology (hardware, software and social media) to ensure that the customer experience is flawless? 

GIVING BACK 

Does the business give back to the communities it serves? 

Use the answer to the questions above to create a snapshot of where you currently stand in terms of the service you offer, and to help you identify any changes you need to make in the future. 

Reference: 

Aki Kalliatakis – Founder of The Leadership Launchpad (Your Business – Volume 19 No 3)