When you walk into a bank and are confronted with rows of chairs that resemble an airport waiting lounge, and are asked to take a number that places you in a long queue, you probably get the sense your business isn’t valued much.
When the waitress gets the order wrong, the entrée comes before the appetizer, and you are told that it is not the restaurant’s fault; your return is improbable.
Customer-driven organisations versus operations-driven organisations are better positioned to differentiate in a competitive marketplace and are likely to capture larger market shares and be more profitable.
Companies spend a great deal of marketing effort and advertising monies attempting to amass new customers. According to the US Office of Consumer Affairs, it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one.
Ogilvy and Mather Direct reckon the return on investment marketing to existing customers can be seven times greater than a prospective customer. Loyal customers, who are the repeat business of the company, are not only more profitable, but they are also the best source of referrals.
A further survey conducted by the Office of Consumer Affairs revealed that an unhappy customer will share their displeasure with at least nine people, 13 per cent telling 20 people or more. Satisfied customers tell approximate five people on average.
A happy customer is likely to deliver more customers, even more than the product itself, while an unhappy customer will steer business away.
Employees are the heart and soul of customer service excellence and in almost every business the most important asset. Customer interactions begin with human contact. Employees are therefore the front-line; every experience either fosters the relationship with the customer or erodes it. A business is therefore as good as its worst employee.
Training of employees needs to go well beyond the mechanics of doing a job and knowledge of products and services. It should include building and cultivating relationships with customers, treating customers with respect and dignity, providing the customer with personal attention, and communicating and ensuring full commitment from the employees on the values, philosophy and culture by which the company operates.
Companies that engage, listen and empower employees generally achieve a much higher customer satisfaction rate. Employees want to belong and be part of the business. Instilling a sense that the business is theirs also goes a long way. After all if it the business fails they are out of a job.
“The customer comes first”, the customer is king”, “and the customer is never wrong” are common sayings, and that is because customers generally want to be treated like royalty.
Customers, especially repeat customers, want to feel like their business is appreciated. Customers want to be heard and listened too. Surveys are an excellent means of measuring customer satisfaction, highlighting potential flaws in delivery, and a means of airing customer complaints that may have gone unnoticed.
Admitting mistakes and apologising defuses customer irritation, making it easier to do business with the company. Rewarding loyalty through affinity programmes protects market share and solidifies the relationship.
Do these concepts apply to the developing market of Cambodia? The competitive coffee market is probably an excellent representation.
The company that gives you a warm welcome when you arrive, knows your name, recognises your order, offers warm and friendly smiles and attitude along the way, has a loyalty card, and delivers a great product, is a successful example in an ultra-competitive market.
As customers are offered more alternatives and choices, customer service excellence will be the ultimate differentiator.
Anthony Galliano is chief executive of Cambodian Investment Management.