Identify and nurture ‘Other Customers’

Identify and nurture other and even “At-Risk” Customers. One customer complaint or incident can be a signal that other customer relationships are at risk. Product recalls are a classic example of this principle. The unfortunate and sometimes even tragic experience of one customer or a group of customers triggers the company to contact all customers asking them to return the product or giving them the parts needed to make a safety adjustment.

The earlier you can identify the cause of other at-risk customers, the less it will cost you in direct expenses and in lost customer goodwill to resolve the conflict for them too. Whether the conflict is large or small, physical or symbolic, reaching out to all affected customers tells them that you value their business and that you are actively nurturing your relationship with them. You aren’t just providing quick answers to customer queries. You’re providing real solutions that add value to the time and money they spend with you.

Fix It Immediately and Fix It Right:

DL recently received an e-mail attempting to sell her on a “new, Innovative, must have product for trainers”. She wasn’t interested, and was a bit annoyed that the email began, “As the member of the ____association, I know that you will be interested in…” So much for the associations promise not to sell her name. Now six hours later, Carol received an e-mail from the Member Services Director for the association. The message acknowledged and apologized for the unauthorized use of the association’s e-mail list, thanked the member who had alerted the main office, and outlined the process for preventing such abuses in the future.

The general manager enthusiastically explained ‘Nice’ never bought them a customer and they already provide great customer service. He also said that he hardly ever heard a customer complaint. Some customers are harder to deal with than others, but that’s just the nature of people. The issue faced is price competition. ‘Nice’ never bought a customer, but got plenty of them to switch vendors for a fraction of a cent. In their business of paper grocery bags, there is no such thing as customer loyalty. And, by saying this, the general manager implied, no real customer relationships are required to be managed.

When talked more on the subject with this general manager about his industry, his target customers, their buying patterns, and what he knew about his competition one could find the evidence to build a strong case for price-focused competition. Customers did indeed switch for a fraction of a cent. But this analysis begged a critical question: how and why did price become the primary driver of the buying decision? This is a critical question because it’s difficult, extremely difficult, to compete solely on price and make a profit.

Price becomes the critical driver when one of three situations exists:

1. Service quality seems indistinguishable- customers don’t perceive any real difference between your offering and that of your competition.
2. Service quality seems universally poor. Customers do not believe that any provider can be relied upon to provide a superior service experience.
3. Service quality seems universally good. Customers believe they will receive an acceptable or even superior service experience at any location. This is more often true across a brand such as a particular hotel chain than across an entire industry segment.

In all three of these situations, the ability to identify, track, and respond to a conflict situation with ease and elegance can give you and your organization a market place advantage. It is when things go wrong that is when you get the customer’s emotional attention.. Hold it carefully, value it and soothe it into trust and exceed expectations which can win the customers’ loyalty — a loyalty that is stronger than “a fraction of a cent”.