BENEFITS OF CREATING RELATIONSHIP MARKETING WITH CUSTOMERS (PART 3)
Customer wants are often tied to major events or rites of passage, such as birthdays, marriage, purchase of a home, pregnancy, and relocation. Keeping track of dates that are important to customers gives the company an opportunity to contact the customer on a special occasion, such as a birthday, to remind the customer of the need to purchase something, or to notify the customer of an impending sale of an item he or she typically buys. This is known as just-in-time marketing.
Amazon.com has made just-in-time marketing a critical component of its overall marketing strategy. Not only does Amazon welcome customers back to its website by showcasing the latest books and gadgets that reflect their interests, but also notifies them by e-mail of new books or videos in the areas they have selected.
A dissatisfied customer will probably tell at least nine other people about the problem he or she faced with a company. (And those nine people will tell their friends as well!) It’s easy to see how quickly even one unhappy customer can damage a company’s reputation. Consequently, complaints should be viewed as opportunities for continual improvement.
Making it easy for a customer to register a complaint and carry on a dialogue with a human being who listens and attempts to understand is an important way to learn from the customer. Nothing is more frustrating than to have to leave a complaint on a voice mail message.
Some companies have used bulletin board services on the Internet to let customers communicate complaints, but this method, though effective, attracts more complaints than any other method.
Companies using bulletin boards have found , in fact, that this system works almost too well, because customers feel free to vent their frustrations more angrily online than when they are hearing a soothing, caring voice at the other end of a phone line. Moreover, because anyone with access to the Internet can read the angry messages, a strong complaint can build momentum and create more problems than necessary.
One way to stem complaints at the source is to provide satisfactory surveys at every point of contact with the customer so that problems can be coped with quickly, at the onset, before the customer becomes so angry that resolution and satisfaction are nearly impossible. Effective handling of complaints can be accomplished by understanding that the customer is`a human being and should be treated as such – never as a number or as someone without a name or feelings. The customer should be allowed to explain the complaint completely, without interruption. Extending this courtesy acknowledges that the complaint is important and worthy of attention.
Customers should always be asked the most important question: “What is one thing we can do to make this better?” A customer’s anger should be defused by sincerely taking his or her side on the issue; then the customer should be moved from a problem focus to a solution focus. Finally, the customer should be contacted one week after the complaint to find out whether he or she is still satisfied with the solution and to express the company’s desire for a continued relationship.
The most important message that can be sent to customers through a company’s marketing effort is that the customer is the most important part of the organization and the company will do whatever it takes to keep the good customers satisfied . While it is certainly true that a young, growing company needs to build a customer base by continually adding new customers, it will reap the greatest returns from investing in the customers it currently has.