Keep your customers happy and spending

By on March 13, 2013

Current economic times mean that improving customer relationships and retaining customer loyalty are both essential if businesses are to prosper. Michael Northcott chats to Chris Mills, managing director of Strativity UK, a customer strategy consultancy about the top ten tips to maintaining a happy spender.

1. Avoid giving new customers better treatment than existing ones

If you think your company is trapped in the ‘culture of the new’, disrupt it. Deals tend to be better for new customers than for sales to existing customers, which sends a clear cultural message about where resources should be invested. Customers will quickly see if their business is being taken for granted and switch to a competitor who will give them the ‘new’ treatment.

2. Don’t put lipstick on the pig

Look to make genuine changes to your business to fulfil promises to customers. For many companies, customer strategy is not an in-depth process of evolving behaviour. Customer strategies end up being merely superficial statements, with colourful communications promising things such as ‘increased commitment’. Customers are likely to reject any attempt at cosmetic changes, which simply mask bad products or services.

3. Don’t lose the passion

Keep your entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurs seek to innovate by making life better through new products or services. Their passion drives the business, becomes contagious and captures the customer’s attention. However, as companies grow and the accountants take over, businesses tend to become process driven and are stripped of their most important intangible asset: passion. If you have reached this stage, rediscover your passion by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes for one day.

4. Understand the real cost of cost reduction

Don’t fool yourself it will have a positive impact. Cost cutting can lead to fewer unique services and products. It usually also means fewer people to serve customers, and those that do are not as excited or ambitious because their morale is low. So while you may report positively on cost cutting to your investors (or your own wallet), you’re not showing them the real price; the loss of customers who sense a dip in quality and switch to a competitor.

5. Plan properly and execute the plan

Don’t let your customer strategy gather dust. Lack of an operational plan that is put into action means that customer strategy objectives will fail because they are not properly integrated into company policy or employee behaviour.

6. Remember – You get what you pay for

Re-evaluate reward and bonus packages to include customer relations. Current reward and bonus plans tend to focus on productivity and therefore quantity rather than quality. When an employer chooses to bypass customer-related bonuses, it sends the message ‘This is not important to us, but we would like you to take care of it’.

7. Consider how to manage change effectively

Most people are fearful of the implications of changing a system or protocol and often behave in a way that undermines efforts to improve customer experiences and loyalty. To prevent this, embed change management as well as training into your plans.

8. Choose the right leadership

When discussing customer strategy, include people with people skills. You need people who naturally think of customers first and this can be hard for senior leaders whose core roles are focused more on the profits and losses than on people.

9. Beware of unstructured relationships

Your company needs to be structured around long-term relationships with customers, yet few customer relationships are structured to continue beyond an initial sale. Each sale is a one-time accomplishment instead of a milestone in a long-term commitment. Think about how to structure a relationship to create longevity, which will lead to greater revenues per customer and higher profitability.

10. Forget about technology shortcuts

For many companies, technology is seen as an end, not just the means. Data is only useful if you use it. There is no point in knowing what percentage of your customers behave in a certain way or dislike a particular aspect of your business, if you don’t act on the knowledge. By all means use data to spot trends but make sure you use the trends analysis to create change.

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