I have always been passionate about customer service and as I plan a new start-up venture in the Philippines, I found reading this article very timely. Loyal and repeat customers are the best customers to have. Let’s value them by providing them the service them need.
From BusinessWorld Philippines
January 03, 2013
By A.R. Samson
LOYALTY programs like reward miles translating into complimentary tickets and upgrades, or membership cards with price discounts from hotels and restaurants aim to make customers happy enough to keep coming back for more business. Marketing people consider repeat business a high priority, trying to achieve what they call “stickiness” with the customer. A retention effort on an existing customer is seen as more cost-effective than trying to get a new one every time. In this pursuit of repeat business, the front-liners are trained to make the customer feel important, remembering the regular patron and his habits, giving him his preferred table and making him feel comfortable by remembering his favorite dish and how it should be prepared (no potatoes for your steak again, Sir). Those in the oldest profession after landscape architecture know this instinctively — have you had dinner, sweetie?
A patronage algorithm in e-commerce looks at the pattern of books previously purchased, including titles and authors that have been browsed, and then proactively offering the tracked customer new books that follow the buyer’s taste. This form of analyzing preferences does not depend on the memory of a front liner that needs to keep a mental file of her customer. Hotels with good information systems understand their customer — king size bed again, Sir in a non-smoking floor? Of course, we will deliver your favorite morning paper before the complimentary breakfast buffet, for two. She prefers hot choco, right?
Not all businesses expect or even want customers to keep coming back. Those that avoid repeat business from the same customer include, for example, hospitals and funeral parlors. These organizations don’t really market themselves actively except to build their reputation as reliable service providers. This branding is expected to be spread by word of mouth alone, not necessarily from repeated personal experiences of the same customers. Here, frequent patronage can indicate failure or an inability to provide good solutions that work.
Certain services don’t even want to see customers at all. After selling them whatever it is they sell, whether a subscription to a service or a durable good like a car or expensive gadget, the only possible reason for a customer dropping in again has to do with a malfunction or some dissatisfaction with the service. These customers then are likely to be greeted more with dismay and irritation (you, again?) than with the warm embrace accorded to a regular patron. Heavy promotion aimed at securing customers is a different effort from actually providing service support to this once prized buyer.
Gadget retailers are not known for their after-sales eagerness to please. Those who sell the latest bragging right don’t happen to be the same ones that help customers use them properly. Anyone walking through the door of an improperly designated “customer service center” is seen as any or all of the following: a) a techno-peasant who has not gone beyond the ability to pay for the expensive gadget and figuring out the on-off switch; b) a retro consumer whose gadget is six months old and not compatible with the upgraded software system but who anyway expects it to still work; and c) someone who expects a tutorial class in using the gadget — why not just buy the notebook with the spiral back, ma’am? These customer reps may as well hang up a sign on their door, “do not disturb.”
The unfortunate reality is that these service centers have become outsourced functions staffed by the inadequately trained, short-term oriented, constantly churning, wishing-to-be-permanently-hired, and unmotivated employees employed by a contractor and who feel no affinity at all with the company whose logo serves as their store’s wallpaper. Thus the company that spends heavy advertising promoting its supposedly premium brand is eroded by the appalling customer experience provided by its contractors.
Repeat business is supposed to be the best indicator of customer satisfaction. Still, there are companies that hate to see a customer that keeps coming back. And pretty soon the customer senses this secret contempt of the company for him, as he abandons that service provider for another actually happy to see him walking through the door. A customer after all is used to feeling welcome… all the time.