The Road to Commitment

Mar 31, 2008 11:52 PM  By

Are you interested in long-term relationships with customers—or one-night stands?

Too many firms prefer the latter. They can’t seem to get past a single sale.

And that’s sad. The people who run these companies should take the nurturing skills they show at home and apply them to the business world.

Getting to know someone at a deeper level requires building trust, openness and a desire to help each other moving forward. The goals are simple—but not so easy to achieve.

How do you recognize and understand that all types of customers want you to be their trusted advisor, or trusted company? When they buy a product, service or solution, they want to be your advocate. Interact with them in a way that gives them reasons to do so.

Just an importantly, be an advocate for them. If it’s an enterprise customer, understand their business priorities and challenges, and help them attain loyal customers. In the consumer word, close the loop with them on important issues that matter to them — not just you — and solicit feedback at their convenience, not yours.

In other words, take their perspective when building customer experiences and interactions. Understand their needs and value their insight and expertise. It will benefit you and build loyal, passionate and profitable customers for the long-term.

But not so fast. The end goal may take some culture change within your company. Many worthwhile programs fail because the awareness, understanding and benefits are never communicated in a meaningful manner. You can’t go from point A to C without gaining the support and acceptance of management, employees and in today’s world, partners.

From an internal perspective, increase the horizontal effort to increase customer loyalty and profitability. Get key organizations involved and working together from a customer-centric point of view. They’ll contribute in a meaningful manner and be advocates for your efforts.

With so many effective tools available you’d think it might be easier. Sure, most companies have an net promoter score, customer loyalty index or customer experience group, but they have difficulty connecting the dots between their company’s brand and customer research, and their process excellence and operational activities.

This is where the gap lies in maximizing business results. It should be an integrated system from an organizational and implementation perspective. But in most cases, they plan and act in an independent fashion. There are multiple reasons for this, but don’t let these barriers stand between you and your customers. In addition to increased share of wallet, a few more benefits to consider are:

  • Uncovering revenue opportunities in areas you never imagined the customer had a need. Saving money because you put your company’s assets at work for something your customer really wants.
  • Improving employee satisfaction. The people in the delivery chain understand the customers’ business better, which prevents lots of frustration.
  • Saving time and money, because you meet the customer’s, and your, expectations.

Build a solid framework that encompasses your customer experience management strategies from an external point of view, while operating as an end-to-end integrated system from an internal perspective. Operations are hungry for tools, methods and training that will allow them to incorporate these customer-centric views, and to sustain these efforts moving forward.

It may also take a few successes to completely change the mindset and embed this as a discipline within your culture, but the benefits are essentially untapped in today’s environment.

Rick Graves is director of customer experience management practice at CoreBrand.