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Article -> Tap Into Customers' Needs and Bump Up Bottom Line

Date Added: April 2007

Overall satisfaction drops 13% if a customer feels pressure during a sale.1 During the sale, customers’ straightforward answers – those which send well-honed sales practices into a tailspin – are easily ignored. Yet, listening, learning and acting upon those answers are keys to creating more emotionally engaged customers.

To attract and retain more customers, tap into their needs – immersion. To be fully involved in an experience, customers demand innovation, multichannel integration and employee engagement.

Innovation. Improved products and services draw customers in; better experiences keep them. If customers typically encounter frustration, provide tranquility. If services are ordinary, craft upscale models. If customers read reviews first, offer reviews. One organization routes call-center overflow to the executive suite. Frame the experience from the customer perspective – or someone else will.
 
Multichannel integration. Today, technology separates the blasé from the bold. To differentiate from the competition, create virtual communities to build branding and socialization. Yet, cutting edge is not always high-tech. Visits, phone calls and handwritten notes get noticed now more than ever.  
 
Employee engagement.  Your people ultimately connect customers and channels. Engaged people outperform others in productivity and offer greater customer satisfaction. Disengaged employees cost companies nearly $300 billion a year in lost profits and damaged customer relationships.2 Invest in people and reap returns to the bottom line.
 
In turn, emotionally engaged people attract emotionally engaged customers. With a focus on relationships, people build the right customer base.
 
7 Steps to Emotionally Engaged Customers:
 
1. Design the right product or service for the right customers. Top customers expect personalization. To determine the right customers, consider:
·         Recruiting new prospects
·         Retraining loyal customers for even better relationships
·         Rewarding existing customers for their business
·         Retaining the right customers
 
2. Deliver high-quality products/services in cost-effective ways. Align the organization’s people to ensure customers receive maximum value at minimum cost.
 
3. Ask, Listen, Learn & Act (AL2A) with customers. Mere surveys establish satisfaction; however, nothing more. An interactive process reveals gaps and creates a customer-specific action plan.
 
4. Perceive every interaction as an opportunity. Each time a customer communicates with an organization’s touchpoints, there is potential to meet additional needs and earn new business.
 
5. Build cross-functional teams. Connect people in sales to those in supply chain management, service, marketing and leadership. From the customers’ perspective, all of the organization’s people should deliver promises flawlessly regardless of departmental affiliation.
 
6. Delight and repeat. Streamline processes that exceed customer expectations and do it again and again. Customers want to do business with organizations whose cultures focus on building brand evangelists.
 
7. Measure loyalty through Ask, Listen, Learn & Act (AL2A). Ask customers, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or a colleague?” Make it part of a continuous process that promotes innovation. There should be no surprises.
 
Customer expectations are growing. Products and services must grow to meet those demands. Grow it, and they will come.
 
  
1 Gaffney, John. “Framing the Customer Experience.” 1to1 Magazine. November/December 2006: 19-24.
 
2 Fleming, John, H., Coffman, Curt, & Harter, James K. "Manage Your Human Sigma." Harvard Business Review. July-August 2005: 107-114.
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