Marketing companies must realize that the consumer is not a threat but an opportunity, an opportunity because a satisfied customer is a repeat customer. A program must be developed which will allow the marketer to communicate effectively with customers. There are numerous activities that businesses could adopt in responding to consumers. The important thing is that the company must be proactive rather than reactive in its approach. In other words, the firm must manage its consumer response system. First, the marketer or company should conduct a consumer audit to determine its image among consumers and whether there is any need for change in its activities. Some research shows whether the company is viewed as progressive, honest, ethical, concerned, and responsible. Once consumer research identifies specific concerns, then the firm should formulate policies for dealing effectively with consumerism. If the effort regarding the customers is successful then it will come to know about consumer experience, listening to consumer complaints and responding to their satisfaction.
Many company executives are often not familiar with the world of the ordinary consumers. For example, the executives may not like to be in the same places as the company’s customers. Managers often keep themselves aloof in a corporate company where they are shielded from contact with their customers. It is necessary to break out and interact with buyers. As a result, many managers have begun riding repair trucks, answering telephones, waiting on shoppers and standing in lines to seek out customers’ opinions and experience first-hand. Thus, managers themselves must first be educated to what their real life customers feel in the marketplace. The manager must also,
Make store personnel aware of what the consumers are thinking, know from consumers how they feel about store operations, merchandising and prices.
Give consumers an opportunity to voice their complaints and improve operations at all levels.
The consumer now finds it easier to complain, question or compliment. Complaints may come from not just dissatisfied users of the product but also from those who are satisfied users of the product, non-users of the product and even non-purchasers of the product.
Complaints from consumers to companies are one of the most important marketing assets available. They are useful because they alert the company through the complaint, prevent brand switching, bad publicity, or product recalls. Companies could actively get complaints by putting toll free telephone numbers on packages and labels for instance and instructing consumers to call immediately if they encounter any problems.
Such information may lead to improvements in the physical product, its packaging advertising, distribution and in quality control programs of the company. For example Whirlpool uses its toll free telephone response system for customers. Questions from consumers can also be effective indicators that deficiencies may exist in advertising labelling or point of sale material.
Once received, complaints and questions must be dealt with effectively. Unfortunately companies often fail to handle these properly. Business must respond in a swift, positive way. Proper complaint handling can be a marketing asset which has the following bottom line benefits: maintenance of market share, low cost market research data base, lower warranty and service costs, improved employee productivity.
Part of the successful response necessary to the consumerism movement involves companies making appropriate organizational changes. The establishment of a division for consumer affairs for the company’s relation with customers. Such a division could identify corporate practices that are perceived as deceptive or antagonistic by the consumers. Review of such practices and resolution of problems would be conducted.
Consumer affairs units however, succeed only when the top management appreciates their involvement and welcomes their special perspective in planning marketing decisions. Generally the consumer affairs unit might have the following functions:
Resolve and analyse customer communication. Develop better information to consumers on the purchase and use of company products and use of company products or services, and establish a liaison with consumer organizations if any.
An example of the use of this type of approach is establishing an Office of Consumer Affairs and involve the consumers in all consumer related areas from in-store customers, contact advertising practices, quality control and merchandising to participation in community, consumers panels and working with consumer groups.
Another area in which marketers may aid consumers is through education of the consumer that is, providing them with greater knowledge of products and how to be an effective consumer. Most consumers receive little education or training on how to shop wisely or manage their money intelligently.
There are several benefits of consumer education to individual’s business. Among the benefits to individual consumers is that the education encourages and helps the consumers to function more efficiently in the marketplace, impart life skills which contribute to success in everyday living, and improves the quality of life. The benefits to business include customer satisfaction, creation of realistic expectations of products and services and an increase in sales.
Consumer education can be an effective competitive tool for the marketer. A company must determine what consumers need to know that will allow them to make the most satisfying purchases of the company’s products and services. The outcome of consumer education activities by firms can be very positive for the Marketing Company.