The customer is always right…but is he happy?
We live in an era where replication of a product or service is easy; the game changer is now customer relations.
During uncertain times, the customer becomes the lifeblood of any business. But today the brand team is struggling with which existing and prospective customers to target with their current offers via multiple channels of interaction.
Many established corporations are aligning their resources towards BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China, for growth opportunities and are aiming to hone in on the rise in disposable income within these economies - notably China, whose new five-year plan aims at a growth strategy fuelled by domestic consumption instead of the trillion-dollar generating strategy of exports maximisation.
What they are finding is the difficulty to engage these rapidly expanding markets with tried and tested Customer Relationship Management (CRM) methods, as they do not translate with them too well making CRM challenging.
The importance of Customer Relationship Management
Good CRM is a powerful contributor towards any growth centric company, whether Business-to-Customer (B2C) or Business-to-Business (B2B), in surviving through uncertain times.
We live in an era where a product or service can be replicated within a year’s time, where the functional competitive advantage exists only on paper, and experiences - from fast food, telecoms to banking - all feel too similar. This is why CRM is the game changer - it cannot be commoditised.
In the modern boardroom, the one issue that keeps coming up is how the company can create and maintain a bond with the customer. How can they provide something unlike anything customers have experienced before and how can they become so customer-centric that it gets them through the worst of times.
It is my understanding and advice that in an uncertain economy, companies are better off creating value with existing customers and acquiring risky new prospects for which they should develop targeted solutions and offers. This can happen by bundling products and services in unique combinations which provide greater margins as it increases perceived value.
They need to determine the optimal allocation of investment across the best fit media mix that will reduce waste and boost marketing effectiveness. One of the ways to determine this is the use of econometric modeling and similar analytics.
Make life easier for the customer
Companies should start cost effective approach in transforming their sales, service and marketing operations to reduce waste and widen reach in the form of online and self service channels. These are less expensive for companies and more attractive for customer because of ease of use.
Air Arabia experienced tremendous uptake of automated check-in (online and kiosks) after switching away from traditional methods in 2010 - which proved to be a great example where cost savings and customer satisfaction go hand-in-hand.
Lean processes, a concept from manufacturing, should also be considered by companies looking to survive and thrive in an uncertain economy. It involves examining and reengineering their CRM process in order to reduce cycle time and improve output with full time employee involvement. After a process is reengineered and perfected the corporation can automate it with new enterprise-class software that now exists solely to increase visibility and control as well as reduce the burden of non-value added activities and infuse sales and marketing best practices.
Specialising and outsourcing
In my experience, I have found it fruitful for a progressive company to reduce or outright eliminate the redundant functions either by outsourcing non core competency processes or through the development of centres of excellence which allows organisations to concentrate internal resources on the most strategic and value-adding activities.
The final area I would recommend a drastic change in, is the elimination or reduction (depending on industry, reach and competitive landscape) of the hands-offs between sales, service and marketing functions, as well as between these functions and other functions.
Corporations can gain significant value by improving how they manage trade promotion (between sales, marketing and customers), manage sales leads (between marketing and sales), execute promotions (between sales, marketing and service), handle purchasing (between procurement and marketing), and the launch fresh products (among all prime functions across the corporations).
I guarantee these recommendations will prove to offer tremendous promises towards improving a company’s Customer Relations Management capabilities.