TheHindu.com Customer Worthy Article

posted May 13, 2011, 5:47 AM by Michael Hoffman

Nine objectives at every customer contact as seen in

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Great summary write-up by D. Murali - Thank you

Identify the customer, recognise, fulfil, upgrade, cross-sell, expand, educate, collect, and generate referrals. These are the nine treatment objectives for each contact, says Michael R. Hoffman in ‘Customer Worthy: Why and how everyone in your organization must think like a customer’ (www.macmillanpublishersindia.com).

Defining ‘contact’ as any connection between a customer and a company, its products, services, and partners, the author observes that customer contacts are the new battleground for companies looking to secure more business and fend off competition. Though each ‘contact’ is an asset and a pivot point for company success, with a potential for tremendous revenue, customer interactions are the most underused asset in most companies, he rues.

Identify, recognise

Begin, therefore, by identifying the customer, as ‘repeat,’ ‘first-time,’ or ‘anonymous.’ Think of this as having caller ID at every customer contact point, the author guides. “This initial identification dictates the contact’s messaging and objectives to best suit the customer’s situation.”

Recognising the customer – the second treatment objective for the contact – involves the ability to access and use the customer’s prior contacts, purchase history, and service history, Hoffman explains. At the minimum, he says, it is important to know and acknowledge whether the customer had prior contacts and to somehow acknowledge the customer’s investment of time and effort. “Platinum, gold and silver levels and loyalty programmes are obvious customer recognition tags that can be used to designate and prepare treatments in each contact and channel.”

Fulfil, upgrade

Fulfil, the third objective, calls for simply delivering what the customer expects in the contact. While ‘fulfil’ may seem simple, it can often be difficult to achieve when customers do not know the best solution or the right product configuration, as the book highlights through many ‘what if’ scenarios that can lead to frustration.

Next comes ‘upgrade,’ because each customer contact is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. Encourage customers to join a frequent buyer programme, automatic replenishment, or automatic renewing service programme to protect their investments and make ongoing purchases and service easier, Hoffman instructs. “Encourage customers that call customer support to buy the latest and greatest product versions to replace their obsolete product or service.”

Cross-sell, expand, educate

Every contact should be evaluated for its ability to sell another product or service, either from your company or from a partner company, the author insists. He advises companies to design propositions that best fit the needs of the customer and to continuously test what sells best and grows total customer lifetime value.

Urging companies to see each contact as a milestone that should strengthen, not weaken, the relationship, the author recommends expanding the customers’ participation in the company network and community. Techniques for trying out include encouraging customers to experience another channel, explore the web, visit a store, and use a coupon from the web.

The ‘educate’ objective is served by educating customers on your business, processes, and how to better use your product, services, and resources for their benefit. Be the single source and primary conduit to best practices for your most valuable customers, the author counsels. “Provide links to community websites, forums, and commentary.”

Collect, generate referrals

To meet the ‘collect’ objective, you need to capture all the elements and attributes associated with each contact. That way, you can best understand the customer’s experience and opportunities, and also improve the performance of future contacts, the author notes.

As for referrals, he mentions examples such as coupons for friends in an envelope, emails with simple forwarding instructions, invitations for friends and colleagues to attend social events, and asking customers on support calls if they know of anyone else who can use the solution.

The book cautions companies that not seeing contact flow data can lead to surprises about revenue shortfalls, inventory outages, resource cost overruns, and diminished customer satisfaction. For, “Traditional financial measures lag too far behind customer activities to be effective for timely business decision-making. Operations and quality metrics are too far removed from a customer’s interests, intent, and preferences.”

Worthy addition to marketers’ shelf.

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