Saturday, October 22, 2005

Do You Really Care About Your Customers?

Actions speak louder than words.

The Company's Value Statement hanging on the Boardroom wall might profess to say we are focused on our customers and their needs.

But do your actions make it real?

Not at most companies ... just read all the negative rants on the blogs and you can tell most company executives really don't care about their customers. Most execs have not talked with a customer in recent history. If you read the blogs, it seems most companies view their customers as numbers on a spreadsheet, all neatly packaged into "profitable customers" ... "frequent shoppers" ... "seasonal prospects" ... "users of two or more products" ... "teenagers" ... "affluent elderly" ... and so on. Not terribly personal. There's no love here.

As marketers, it is the conversations that we start and maintain with customers that are truly important. That's one reason blogs are so important to me ... they can be at least one more means of continuing the conversation.

How to initiate the conversation? It takes simply a few minutes of your downtime. You see a new article on customer communications best practices on a website. You also know that several prospective customers have registered on your website and requested your Customer Communications White Paper. So you pick up the phone and call these customers to make sure they got the information from you, and you tell them about the best practices article you just spotted. Then email the link to the article to them, along with a PDF of your customer communications offerings. Now, when this lead is turned over to your sales department for local followup, the customer is in a much more receptive mood ... you have positioned your sales rep for success because the process began with your true concern for the customer!

We need to see customers as people with real needs and interests that will, ultimately, lead to a stronger relationship. Listen and respond. That's good marketing advice from Steve Hall.

6 Comments:

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Leigh Ann Merchant said...

Company execs should do a better job of communicating with customers. It's sad that they don't care about the people that make their company a success, and only view customers as numbers on a spreadsheet. If I had a problem with a company or purchase I would want to get help from a considerate employee who honestly cared about my concern. All members of a company, including execs, should make more of an effort to make customers happy.

I like your comment that said, "As marketers, it is the conversations that we start and maintain with customers that are truly important." A company should listen and respond to a customer's concerns. Whether it was a good or bad comment in a blog, email, phone call, etc. Acknowledgement and customer service is key if you want to keep customers coming back.

It shouldn't take long to initiate a conversation with a customer, find out what the problem is and then work on finding a solution. By doing this you are establishing a relationship with the customer, earning their trust and hopefully they will continue to do business with your company. Actions do speak louder than words. It is up to execs to start focusing more on customer service and satisfaction.

 
At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

I'm so glad that I have access to useful information like this post. The sites we read every week are useful in different ways, and I consider it a privlege to learn all I am before I graduate in May.

I agree that companies need to make their customers feel like they are real people. When people feel like they matter to something or someone, they are more likely to return again and again.

Being a PR major, we have learned multiple times the importance of communication. The comment you made, "As marketers, it is the conversations that we start and maintain with customers that are truly important" is so true and I hope that both large and small companies realize this. Communication is key to success in relationships. Even just a two minute e-mail or phone call can make all the difference.

I'm glad I realize this necessity now and know it is something that I will carry with me wherever my career leads.

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous laura said...

I'm so glad that I have access to useful information like this post. The sites we read every week are useful in different ways, and I consider it a privlege to learn all I am before I graduate in May.

I agree that companies need to make their customers feel like they are real people. When people feel like they matter to something or someone, they are more likely to return again and again.

Being a PR major, we have learned multiple times the importance of communication. The comment you made, "As marketers, it is the conversations that we start and maintain with customers that are truly important" is so true and I hope that both large and small companies realize this. Communication is key to success in relationships. Even just a two minute e-mail or phone call can make all the difference.

I'm glad I realize this necessity now and know it is something that I will carry with me wherever my career leads.

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger Natalie said...

I agree, companies don’t think of customers as people anymore. We are just another credit card number that could up their sales. Thinking of customers as groups of people is the easy way out. Just think how loyal customers were back when the owner of the store knew almost all of their customers and what they normally purchase. I understand that that is hard to do these days but companies could use that type of customer relations and work from it.

I have been to several establishments or stores in the last few weeks where the employee was on the phone the whole time they were helping me. They were all on personal calls. Being on the phone makes it hard for the employee to talk with the customer and make them feel important to the company.

After the employees start better communicating with the customers then the owner can start one by one talking with the customers. The owner can personally find out what is important to the customer and what makes the customer happy.

I wonder if companies will ever figure out that the easiest way to get more customers it to just talk to them?

 
At 7:28 PM, Anonymous katie said...

It is a shame that companies are not paying more attention to the needs of their customers. Especially since customers are going beyond letter writing and phone calls to voice their complaints – instead, they are going to straight to the Web and posting their opinions in a very public medium.

And the adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” is constantly being tested and proven to be true. The result is that customers don’t want mindless expressions from the customer service department– they want measures to be taken on their behalf. And the best way to provide these actions is by initiating conversation. I think Leigh Ann is correct when she said, “Acknowledgement and customer service is key if you want to keep customers coming back.”

As customers, we understand that every personal matter that we have with a company is not necessarily going to cross the desk of an executive officer. However, it is the job of execs to ensure that we feel that way. Acknowledgement is important, whether it is positive or negative, because it shows that someone listened and responded. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship without a constant flow of communication.

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Tyler said...

Thank you for an insightful post. I completely agree that companies need to start focusing more on customers and their needs and not just see them as a number with dollar signs attached.

I have worked at many companies where the customer service aspect was based on how quickly we get them in, make them spend money, get them out, and not worry about them again unless they complain. (Even then response is limited to quick actions to stifle the noise.) Granted you can "do business" in this manner and keep money coming in but like Leigh Ann said “Acknowledgement and customer service is key if you want to keep customers coming back.”

I currently work for a company that has recently taken drastic measures to improve customer service. We have changed from automated operator systems to an actual person answering the phone, we have tried to answer problems and concerns within a 24 hour period (when reasonable) and we have hosted forums and chats so people can discuss issues and praises about our company. Since these steps have been taken I have heard nothing but positive feed back. I more often than not have the same customers calling me everyday for more products or just to find out what we will be releasing next.

I have also found that even if you take those few extra seconds to ask a customer, "Is there anything else I can help you with today?" or to say, "Have a great day." when you hang up, often pulls a lot of weight with customers who now feel they are more than a dollar sign to our company.

I just hope more companies begin to see the potential in better customer service. As Katie said, "customers are going beyond letter writing and phone calls to voice their complaints – instead, they are going to straight to the Web and posting their opinions in a very public medium."

 

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