Why do we advertise? Is it because we are so proud of a new product that we have to boast about it to the world, is it because we want to entice a customer away from a rival or perhaps it is because by advertising we may persuade someone to buy something which they had never considered before? Well in truth there are many different reasons for advertising and every business will have its own agenda but the common end-point is that we hope that advertising will lead to increased revenue.
Because of this end goal we tend to pour endless time and money into advertising. We design brands, run focus groups and debate images and wording to a minute level in a desire to succeed and attract that extra sale. But although we pour all this effort into attracting customers, we often do nothing to keep them loyal. In fact quite the reverse; once a customer has signed up it is far too tempting to treat them as a cash-cow, to rely on inertia to keep them buying.
So we have tales of banks offering good rates to new customers whilst downgrading older accounts; we have insurance companies which automatically escalate charges for existing clients whilst offering discounts for new ones and we have phone companies which go all out to attract new clients whilst ditching tariffs which loyal clients have been on for years.
And whilst there is nothing intrinsically wrong in changing the offering, adding fresh or revamped products, sometimes the drive for the new can come at a not inconsiderable cost. In a world in which a mainstream TV or print advert can cost £thousands, what price is put on customer loyalty? More particularly, in our new social media world in which everyone has a voice, how much can be gained by customers recommendations and how much lost by broadcast dissatisfaction?
In the past, if someone was unhappy with a business then they may have grumbled to a few close friends and relatives. Now they broadcast to the world and the world listens. Managing social media reputations has become big business and all of this costs.
Of course it doesn’t have to be like that. When every loyal customer is an advocate, new customers will follow. But looking after loyal customers is more than simply sticking a poster on the wall saying that the customer is more important than the business. Looking after customers means taking time to understand them, it means checking what effect product or process changes will have on them, it means embedding exceptional customer service into the DNA of the business.
Creating an exceptional customer experience will only succeed if everyone within the organisation lives, breathes, and works with the customer in mind. Customer focus doesn’t stop on the sales floor, nor in the product development department, nor in the IT suite. Outstanding customer experience only comes when every person from the CEO downwards lives the vision.
This means that when the strategy is changed, when new products are brought to the fore, existing customers should be rewarded for staying loyal. It means when the computer says no, some measure of personal discretion should be employed. It means anticipation and taking steps to prevent dissatisfaction. It means responding to customer needs and queries with vigour rather than with inactivity.
Creating an organisation in which exceptional customer service is the norm is not simply a fluffy nice to have which may save a bit on dealing with customer complaints, it is a driver which increasingly differentiates one business from another. When we live in a global marketplace in which every business has access to similar levels of technology the only thing which distinguishes one business from another is the way in which a business looks after its clients. Get it right and clients will stay loyal and recommend others to make the switch; get it wrong and social media will have a field day.
So why do we advertise? Well there will always be a time and a place for advertising but with exceptional customer service on your side your clients will do most of the advertising for you and at no direct cost to your business.
Derek Bishop, Culture Change Consultant
Derek has over 20 years experience in leadership roles and a proven track record of delivering business results in high volume and complex environments, whilst leading individuals and teams through change and creating performance based cultures. Formerly a Head of Customer Service at AXA, Derek was responsible for the design and build of a number of new operations as well as the turnaround of several poorly performing business units. He has worked with the leadership teams of global organisations in the UK, Europe and Asia. Derek’s unique skill set combination of a logical, process mind, high emotional intelligence, deep understanding of people and the ability to “create order out of chaos” make him a trusted advisor to a number of senior business leaders.
Derek has a passion for waterskiing as well as enjoying kayaking, cycling, skiing and worldwide travel.