Your customers don't want you to delight them!

Sales Pitch

Herman Alvaranga

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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Companies still have much to learn about the true meaning of service ... If the two characters on my doorstep really had come to install my broadband connection, why did they have the appearance and demeanour of a pair of burglars?

I asked them to identify themselves. One fished in his sweatshirt and produced a plastic card on a silver necklace. The other chortled that he had lost his identification . . . Those first impressions can be so misleading, can't they? Not really. (Michael Skapinker, Financial Times, 2003)

COMPETING THROUGH SUPERIOR SERVICE

I shake my head in disappointment when companies, especially in the insurance sector, claim that the only real difference among them is the quality of their service. Is that the best that their marketing can do? As my “friend” Donald Trump would say, “Sad.”

Nonetheless, the pressure on companies to compete through superior service and effective customer relationships has never been higher. But achieving appropriate competitive positioning based on service and relationships investments has never been harder because consumers are more demanding than ever before. If you are in that pursuit, here are six simple principles that you may find useful:

1. Solve the customer's problem completely by ensuring that all the goods and services work, and work together.

2. Don't waste the customer's time.

3. Provide exactly what the customer wants.

4. Provide what's wanted exactly where it's wanted.

5. Provide what's wanted where it's wanted exactly when it's wanted.

6. Continually aggregate solutions to reduce the customer's time and hassle. (Womack and Jones, 2005)

ARE YOU OVERWHELMING CUSTOMERS?

I get countless mobile messages from a company that sells fertilisers. Now that's a product for which I have no use. So too the messages from Red Stripe and Heineken, for I do not drink.

This leads me to ask about the many consumers who find the rising volume of marketing messages on the Internet and in the mobile-enabled world to be simply overwhelming.

Could it be that rather than attracting customers and building loyalty and effective relationships, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage with them?

Here's a quote that marketers will do well to remember:

“It seems what customers want from marketers is actually simplicity, not more complexity and confusion.” (Spenner and Freeman, 2012)

WHITHER CUSTOMER LOYALTY?

Indeed, while customer loyalty has long been a central tenet of marketing, it is increasingly being called into question. The modern customer may increasingly be a 'serial adulterer' rather than conventionally loyal (Hill, 2014).

Some of my friends in banking, for example, insist that loyal customers may not actually be cheaper to serve as conventionally suggested. Why? Because they want you to waive every fee or charge and often take so much time that it may just not be worth it. Certainly not for the smaller accounts.

CUSTOMER LOYALTY OR CUSTOMER RETENTION?

It is important that we distinguish between customer retention and customer loyalty, together with the relationship each of these has with customer satisfaction.

There is a danger, in practice, that these concepts become confused. Customer retention is essentially a measure of repeat purchase behaviour, and there are many reasons why customers may come back even if we have failed to provide them with a high level of satisfaction - they may have no choice or they may not know any better.

BRIBING CUSTOMERS

Fraser (2007) warns of 'conflicted consumers' who buy your product and appear highly satisfied, but in fact are a stealth segment ready to defect as soon as a viable alternative appears.

Customer loyalty, however, is more to do with how customers feel about us: Do they trust us? Do they actively want to do business with us? Will they recommend us to others?

To confuse retention and loyalty can be dangerous. Retention may be achieved through a 'bribe' - discounts for repeat purchase, additional exclusive value-added services, and so on. Achieving high customer loyalty is likely to be far more difficult and requires greater long-term investment. The practical difference is great.

For example, 'customer loyalty' card schemes are more about customer retention than loyalty and satisfaction, and it is likely that their effects will last only until there is a better offer available.

A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

So what level of customer service do I want? Don't try to delight me! Like most customers I do not want a relationship with any company, I just want things to work properly. And the banks know this very well. Why do you think they have so many ABMs?

Having said that, I must commend the people at Select Grocers in Manor Park and Sagicor Bank in Liguanea for defining the personnel differentiation that so many companies try to, but rarely achieve.

Do you have a favourite service provider here in Jamaica; or are they all the same to you?

Herman D Alvaranga, FCIM, MBA, is president of the Caribbean School of Sales & Marketing. For more insights on sales and marketing please go to his blog at www.cssm.edu.jm

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