‘It takes months to find a customer….seconds to lose one’ -Vince Lombardi
The Year 2021 has started with a lot of optimism, as businesses try to get back their own rhythm, after a wasted year. Meanwhile, the year 2020 has taught us some very tough lessons in life.
One of the major elements of change has been on the Customer Management front. Both in terms of acquiring and retaining customers, a lot is changing rapidly. Hence, for businesses, the Customer Relationship Model needs to be revisited; to ensure business sustenance and growth.
It is worth, therefore, looking at the fundamentals of Customer Management to be sure we aren’t missing something important.
1. Basic Expectations of a Customer
Customers look for the following while purchasing a Product or a Service
- Superior Product Quality (An array of Products that meet the need, for different Budgets)
- Prompt Service (Smooth Delivery & Installations, Ease to connect, Satisfactory complaint redressal, Regular service follow-up)
- Holding Customer’s Attention & Interest (Customer Relationship Manager, Exciting offers for new Products, Annual Customer Feedback Mechanism, Involve the Customer in growth story, Wow Factors)
- Swift Escalation Mechanism (Call Centre/Email – Social Media connect- Customer Relationship Manager – Sales & Service Head – CXO – Sales & Service – Managing Director)
2. Customer Delight
Exceeding expectations delights the customer. This builds a deeper bond. Even small gestures could leave a lasting impact. Imagine our delight when Amazon introduced a 30 Day Refund Policy, for all products purchased from their website..! Or same day delivery of an urgently needed gadget bought online!!
Finding new & better ways to please our Customers, will make them stay interested in the Product or Service offered.
Meeting Customer Expectations and Exceeding them sounds logical and simple. But, the reality is that most brands miss out some critical aspects, due to lack of a comprehensive look at their Customer Relationship Model.
3. Expectation Gaps in Customer Relationship Model
Some of the typical customer expectation gaps we see in the customer relationship models of businesses are as follows
- Many times, businesses Overpromise and Underdeliver.
- While Sales Executives call multiple times Before a Purchase, there is No Connect with the Customer, After the Purchase.
- Often the Client discovers Hidden Terms & Conditions (in fine Print), After the Purchase.
- Most Service Purchases are on Prepaid Model, without any Service Guarantee.
- Product repair support or Accessory supplies aren’t available for many online purchases.
- The Actual Product/Service is often Starkly Different in comparison to Promotional & Teaser Videos & communication.
- There is No Escalation Process to connect with relevant people in case there is dissatisfaction.
Thus, Customers often feel cheated or let down after the Purchase.
4. Post Covid Changes in 2020
As the Pandemic 2020 set in, we saw significant changes in the ways companies and customers have renegotiated their relationships
The visible changes may be mentioned as follows
- Customers have prioritized their buying needs afresh; often preferring essentials over premium needs.
- The value expectations from companies have increased significantly, as Customers have become extremely price conscious.
- Customer Relationships have taken an entirely new meaning, with many transactions moving online.
Some interesting examples that we have experienced in Covid Times
- With safety as a paramount need, Product Companies have created a seamless Doorstep Delivery Model; either through their own apps/website and delivery partners; and/or through e-commerce majors like Amazon, Flipkart etc.
- Health consciousness has become a prime focus. Product Companies have introduced a whole range of new Products promising enhanced immunity and hygiene to the Customer in the form of new Health Drinks, Water Purifiers, AYUSH Products, Health Substitutes, Sanitizers, Home Cleaning etc.
- Service Outfits have re-oriented their Business Model to offer Home Services – Hospitals have started Home Service Packages, Testing Labs have increased their Home Test facilities.
- Service Companies have shifted gear to offer FREE WEBINARS on various topics, that have helped them in Brand building.
5. Innovation in Customer Relationship Model a key focus
In the new normal, it therefore makes a lot of sense to give a stronger focus to the new customer needs; and our relationships with them. This is a great time to revisit the Customer Relationship Model, and increase our overall value proposition to her/him.
As we learn to step up our game, and get new (& old) customers back into the system, there is a lot of scope of innovative ideas to connect with; and attract the Customer for the short, medium & long term. This will enable the customer to remain interested in the company, for a long time.
While the Covid Pandemic has pushed companies to enhance their technology platforms to serve customers better, it is now a great opportunity to offer enhanced value to Customers.
Some thoughts around the same, are given below.
- Businesses need to identify the present day critical needs of the target customer. Often they are’t stated. Hence, visualizing these is essential.
- They need to build a value proposition that is more than the core need and the price paid for the Product.
- Simplicity of the new processes is important, especially for first time online buyers.
- Customers are missing the human connect in today’s online buying scenario. Smartly managed voice/video chats may help!
- Retention is cheaper than acquiring new customers.Businesses need to explore product upgrade offers to existing customers; and offer new products at a special price to them.
- They can build a mechanism of regular customer connect and feedback, possibly once a month, through calls, mails or online forms; of course, without becoming an irritant.
- Businesses could offer long term benefits to a loyal customer; build annual plans for Customers.
I leave you with a schematic Diagram of a Customer Relationship Model that covers a 360 degree view of Customer Management
Every step is essential. Do you have a plan for each of these steps in your Customer Relationship Model?
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