As a child I wondered how burger shops regularly maintained long queues of customers waiting to be served. I remember asking my mum why; why did we always have to queue for burgers! Burgers of all meals!! My mum never had an answer for me. Having grown up, I still cast my mind back to those days. The question has still not stopped bothering. Granted any buyer of any commodity is swayed by several factors. The human species is the most unpredictable when it comes to making purchase decisions. I am not sure if there is any major reason that any one can pigeonhole to support any buying decisions. Even when a shop or service is located inconveniently far away, you still find people travelling those distances to get things from these shops or services. At one time I thought it was a cost factor. But how would one explain this cost factor in relation to a situation where someone travels a very long distance to procure a commodity. How about the cost of petrol, the wear and tear effects (motor car) of doing long distances, the insecurity of traffic etc, etc? Come to think of it, it is not exactly a question of cost. It is possible there are other factors.
The sum of the above illustration is simply customer loyalty, which is a function of customer satisfaction. If a customer is satisfied with what you do, there is every chance that he’ll return for more. Sometimes with a friend! There is something that the corner shop in your street does so well that keeps bringing you back to it for more items. You might think they do not bother a hoot about customer loyalty. They do. They want you to keep coming back and that’s why they do what they do so well. So much for the SPAZA shops. How about the new age thing – IT – where there is a genuine need for IT but a reluctance to embrace it. How well are the IT practitioners making attempts to engender customer loyalty? Very few people out there are willing to state their explicit needs for IT services. The rest will require a bit of persuading, convincing. Now when you do get out there to get some bloke to take up your service, do you just assume that that’s all you need to do? You need to continually delight the customer because one wrong move the customer is out. And you’ll perhaps spend a lot more money to get him back in.
Customers are the live-wire of any market segment. How well you identify who your customers are and how well you look after them go a long way in determining your growth level. Ask yourself how much you spend in attracting customers and how difficult is it to get one customer to buy from me. Also consider how painful it is when you loose a customer. In fact more painful it is when you lose a customer on the grounds that you did not satisfy the customers needs. It is true that customers can be very difficult and one can understand when one loses a customer on the basis of price (you’ve got to cover overheads and all that), but how about when you lose a customer due to poor service? A poor service that you could actually have told your customer was in fact the ideal service!
When I talk about retaining customers, I am not referring to retaining customers using high profile CRM packages. What I am saying is using the simplest form of CRM mechanisms in attracting and keeping customers.
More than ever, your business depends on building and keeping happy customers. Let’s take a look at some of these ‘cheap’ CRM packages.
Creating a database of customers using MS Access is a pretty good start. (No offence to those sellers of CRM packages). I am not saying MS Access is the best to use. I do not want to sound patronizing here. Many of these CRM packages have facilities that help to acquire, retain and grow profitable customers, and also maintain healthy, measurable business success. They help to monitor real-time results of marketing campaigns, track action taken on leads while also controlling external distribution channels. In terms of support, they provide every customer-facing employee access to a complete, integrated customer history. Anyone working at a help desk can quickly know what a customer has been sold, the terms and the challenges.
Some other CRM efforts include:
EFFICIENT/EFFECTIVE HELP DESK. A good CRM scheme helps to track and manage calls, measures productivity for customer service and sales reps, manage costs, monitor toll fraud, and create billings and a whole lot more.
Generally, a good CRM idea provides access to vital information, helps in the understanding and communication efforts, streamlines workflow management and customises service to suit the needs of customers. Your help desk should not be the type that customers will wait for several hours to even get a hello. The customer with a problem does not give a damn whether there are other customers waiting to be served! If he needs help, he wants to get it immediately. The customer hates it when his time is wasted.
NEWSLETTERS can be published weekly or monthly. Whichever period you choose to publish your newsletters, make sure you do not bore your reader with regular issues of nonsense. Let your newsletters highlight your services (avoid being repetitive), your moves in the field, etc, etc.
REGULAR FOLLOW UP CALLS. Don’t make these calls just to say “we are sorry, please don’t take your money elsewhere”. Make these calls to identify with your customers; find out how they are doing – business, et al.
QUICK & ERROR-FREE PROCESSING OF ORDERS. In processing requests, try not to frustrate the customer with verbose communication. Make the process as easy and relaxing as possible.
MELLIFUOUS/ATTARCTIVE VOICES ON THE PHONES. Your front desk should have good speakers of the language whose voices are also good to listen to. A hoarse, boring voice might be a perfect turn-off (I am not advocating a bedroom-pillow voice here!).
REGULAR MARKET/SATISFACTION SURVEYS. You need to know how well your customers are doing and what they think of your service/product. Encourage them to be as honest as possible. This is a good appraisal form for you. Should you send out questionnaires to your customers for instance and you get 1/3 of responses, do a review of whatever it is that you are doing. A 1/3-response return is a good sign that your customers are not happy with you.