The way companies treat customers, or, the experience they provide their customers is one of the most critical factors in the profitable growth of most companies. It is also one of the most effective pathways to market leadership. Here’s why.
Peter Drucker, a famous global management guru, once famously declared that, “The only goal of a company is to get a customer (acquisition), and hang on to her (retention).” However, acquiring customers and retaining customers require different skill sets. Companies can always acquire customers by promising to deliver value in the future. But the only way they can retain their customers is by engineering and delivering compelling customer experiences. Positive customer experiences resulting in higher customer retention confer several strategic benefits on a company. First, they directly contribute to the profitability of the company because it costs 8-10 times more to acquire customers than to retain them. Next, positive customer experiences build unconditional trust between customers and the company. This trust translates to greater satisfaction and loyalty. It also translates to a greater willingness of customers to do more business with the company, and to provide positive referrals to non-customers.
Memorable customer experiences, however, don’t happen accidentally. They are the result of conscious and systematic investments in understanding customers search, buying, and consumption behaviors, in designing business processes to effectively serve customers’ needs, wants, and desires, in flawlessly implementing those processes, and in continuously innovating the experiences to keep them relevant and meaningful. Additionally, it also requires companies to acquire proficiency in winning the hearts and minds of customers, not just their wallets.
The reason why market leadership and excellence in designing, delivering, and innovating compelling customer experiences go hand-in-hand is because market leaders treat their customers as assets. They invest in them, genuinely want to serve them, and prioritize treating them right. Which results in customers trusting them more, staying with them longer, doing more business with them, and providing them with a greater volume of positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
The service methodology will comprise 4 distinct phases.
The first phase, a pre-consulting step, will assess client needs and performance. Key company executives will be interviewed to gauge the current state of customer value and customer experience being delivered by the client’s company. Additionally, aspirations concerning the customer experience the client intends delivering to key target markets in the future will also be assessed. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis will provide the backbone of this phase. Special attention will be paid to evaluating competitive threats – experiences that competitors are delivering that customers value, the changing needs and lifestyles of key market segments and target markets, and the core competencies – machine and human – considered necessary for designing, delivering, and innovating relevant and meaningful customer experiences in the sector in which the client’s company operates.
The second phase will focus on inputs vital for designing relevant, meaningful, and memorable customer experiences. These inputs will be drawn from three key domains. The first domain is the experiential world of the customer. Research and information gathering techniques that allow clients to acquire a deeper understanding of the experiential world of the customer will be discussed. The second domain is the internal operating world of the client. Client companies are likely to have varying degrees of expertise and self-sufficiency concerning resources required for designing compelling customer experiences. The importance of collaboration, networks, and alliances will be discussed in areas where the client’s company is not strong, or self-sufficient. Lastly, inputs will also be drawn from the social, cultural, and technological environments in which customers and clients live and operate. Because access to necessary skills and resources have a significant bearing on clients’ abilities to design and deliver memorable customer experiences.
The third phase will focus on delivering the customer experience designed in phase two to strategic market segments and target markets. Participants will learn how best-in-class companies use traditional and non-traditional vehicles, like brand ecosystems, value platforms, human and machine interfaces, and social media for delivering compelling and memorable customer experiences to their customers. Special emphasis will be placed on the role of employees in delivering the intended customer experience. Both process and structural initiatives necessary for aligning employee experience with customer experience will be discussed.
The fourth phase will focus on the need for, and importance of innovating customer experiences. Customer experience mapping tools like touch-point analysis, customer-journey mapping, and service blueprinting will be discussed to provide participants with both the knowledge and the means to innovate customer experience. This discussion will be augmented with a discussion of Innovation frameworks, like the four-actions framework, that are commonly used for innovating customer experience.
The service will be delivered in three 4-hour modules to groups of 8-12 participants. However, if necessary, all parameters – number of modules and participants, and duration of each module – can be customized to meet the client’s needs.
Companies can elect whether they just require Appleton Greene for advice and support with the Bronze Client Service, for research and performance analysis with the Silver Client Service, for facilitating departmental workshops with the Gold Client Service, or for complete process planning, development, implementation, management and review, with the Platinum Client Service. Ultimately, there is a service to suit every situation and every budget and clients can elect to either upgrade or downgrade from one service to another as and when required, providing complete flexibility in order to ensure that the right level of support is available over a sustainable period of time, enabling the organization to compensate for any prescriptive or emergent changes relating to: Customer Service; E-business; Finance; Globalization; Human Resources; Information Technology; Legal; Management; Marketing; or Production.
The dominant mission of this service is to help companies understand that how they treat their customers, or the experiences they deliver to their customers, are critical determinants of their survival and future prosperity.
Many companies claim giving top priority to customers, and operating with a “customer-first” mindset. But several academic researchers, business journalists, and industry captains, like Lou Gerstner and A.G. Lafley, former CEOs of IBM and P&G respectively, have lamented that the customer-facing behavior and actions of companies don’t always match these claims. A large number of companies still give priority to their operations, and build their businesses around their brands and technologies. They view their customers as costs, not as assets. Consequently, they are quick to sacrifice experiences customers value, such as personalized interaction, customer service, and product quality, in order to protect and boost their profits.
However, while this may produce favorable short-term results, it invariably damages the company’s health and wellbeing in the long run. Because customers that are treated poorly, or have experiences that don’t meet their expectations, are significantly more likely to leave or reduce the amount of business they do, and provide negative word-of-mouth recommendations. These activities affect both customer acquisition and customer retention. And if companies can’t acquire new customers, and they can’t retain current customers they can’t grow and prosper. There is no greater driver of the future health and prosperity of companies than satisfied and loyal customers. These customers stay and provide positive recommendations and referrals. The learning for companies being that the monies they spend on designing and delivering, relevant, compelling, and memorable customer experiences are not a cost, they are the most valuable investment they can make in their own future wellbeing and prosperity.
My credentials for fulfilling this mission follow.
Dr. Bhalla is an experienced leadership, marketing, innovation, and strategy professional with over thirty years of global experience as a multinational corporate executive, business consultant, entrepreneur, academic, and executive education specialist. During his professional tenure he has worked with companies in over thirty different countries on five different continents. His rich and varied experience working with diverse functional groups within companies operating in diverse cultures coupled with his academic and commercial credentials is a powerful asset in enabling companies innovate and implement new leadership narratives.