How to Think Like a Customer

We’re told that the marketer always puts the customer first, but actual experiences often prove us wrong. Logistics expert Debra Ellis of Wilson & Ellis Consulting takes us on a trip to the movies—where reality, she discovers, is far grimmer than the fantasies onscreen:

“Movies have a longstanding tradition of providing an escape from everyday life. They delight, inspire, and sometimes educate, all under the guise of entertainment. And, today, they can easily be viewed in the privacy of a home theater, so a trip to the local cinema is more about the experience than the movie.

“In the search for the next box-office blockbuster, the customer has been forgotten. The typical theater experience starts with the owner obtaining a short-term loan for tickets and concessions. This is followed by the customer standing in line at the concession stand for expensive, slightly burned popcorn and watered-down soda. Next, there is the challenge to travel across the sticky, litter-strewn floors to the seats. Hearing the movie dialogue is a challenge, with crying babies and conversationalists holding court. And avoiding the restrooms is a really good idea because they haven’t been cleaned since the original War of the Worlds. It is little wonder that most people just wait for the DVD!”

How this relates to the direct-commerce business, Ellis says, is that for direct marketers, too, it’s all about the customer experience. Ignore how the customer feels throughout the transaction—and you can kiss your business goodbye. With the holiday season just a few months away, it’s time to review every aspect of your business to ensure that the customer is served quickly and efficiently. Ellis offers the following tips to get you started:

1. Make sure that all visitors can navigate your Website easily. Some sites are accessible only with high-speed service. This severely limits sales opportunities. Customers will leave a slow-loading site in search of one that takes less time.

2. Provide a customer service number on every Web page. Yes, it may increase the number of calls, but it will also increase sales because it encourages trust. Customers should know that someone is always available to help.

3. Have a live operator answer calls instead of a router. All agents should be trained to answer basic service questions and take orders. This will minimize the call time and improve service.

4. Schedule enough staff to process sales regardless of venue. If there is a service center or checkout station in the store, have at least one clerk to work it so customers are not searching for a place to complete their purchase. Use extra resources for overflow calls, such as a third-party call center or internal resources such as the marketing team and executives.

5. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Inform customers when to expect their orders, what the return policies are, and any time the situation changes.

For more tips, contact Ellis at 828-626-3756 or e-mail

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