Is there nothing better than hearing retailers talk about the new age of the customer? Developing their loyalty programs and, of course, the golden implementation tactic that is enhancing their customer relationship management platforms.
Some CEOs may define their reign as beginning with the improvement of customer service levels, charging into the fray with quixotic like fervor; galvanising the troops to a fever pitch where all that matters is the customer.
While this motivation is inspiring to hear, there needs to be a clear plan in place for customer relationship management.
We recommend that this should commence with some simple common sense management (CSM) before implementing customer relationship management (CRM). Now, please don’t misunderstand, we are great advocates and exponents of CRM platforms and regularly advise our clients in this field.
However, first things first, let’s discuss some of the business fitness tips that are necessary before implementing programs from loyalty and customer relationship management to investing in more direct customer contact models.
Business fitness tip #1
Establish and define your strategic customer service differentiator. What do terms such as exceeding or enchanting or even satisfying customers even mean?
Recently we conducted some research of one company’s staff alignment to their goals. We asked the staff a simple question around their perception of what exceeding customer satisfaction in their business actually meant. We received a staggering variance in the answers amongst the front line staff, clear indication that a lack of benchmarks existed in the business.
Despite all good intentions, here we see the very start of the inconsistent customer service delivery. At this point, investment in elaborate customer tracking, targeting and platforms of this ilk would quite possibly be an extravagant use of investor funds and using common sense to get the basics right first will make this investment much more valuable in future.
Business fitness tip #2
Measure the starting position of your customer service and satisfaction levels. The more elaborate mechanism is to measure a weighted hybrid of mystery shopping, staff attitude (happy staff = happy customers), customer exit surveys and sales results (at the risk of shameless self-promotion, we provide this service). Once you have a good understanding of where your service and satisfaction levels currently are, you will have some strong factual indicators of where the areas of improvement lie and where training and goal-setting should be focused.
Knowing what you need to beat and your areas for improvement is simply common sense management. Nothing gels a team more effectively than a common goal.
Business fitness tip #3
Talk to real customers. Surprisingly few retailers do enough of this essential activity. The ‘fitter’ retailers get to know their customers. They search out real life customer experiences with their organisation and its people. They capture these experiences, learn from them and adapt the business to ensure it is correctly positioned for the target market.
With the increase of social media, it is becoming simpler to gauge customer opinions, learn of their experiences and find out their likes and dislikes. This is often the most effective means of creating and influencing a truly real customer centric company culture. Best Buy is renowned for their Facebook page where they really engage with their customers and get to know them on all levels.
It is simply common sense to know your customer before developing a relationship with them.
The key is to start with an honest self-appraisal of your business. Knowing who you are and what you want out of your business and aligning this with your customers’ needs and wants is key to creating customer service excellence.
This takes an application of CSM before CRM.
Happy ‘fit’ retailing.
Brian Walker is the managing director of Australasia’s leading retail consultancy, Retail Doctor Group.