My 360 Degree View Treats the Customer Like A Person

Posted by: on Oct 21, 2011 | No Comments

I came across a white paper from the AberdeenGroup by Peter Ostrow where they had surveyed 261 end-user organizations to learn about sales effectiveness. Sales and marketing go “hand in glove,” and I’m always fascinated by the distinctions drawn between a sales-centric organization and their process, vs. a culture that puts more of the burden on marketing. Or worse – an organization that expects them to operate in a vacuum away from each other because, at some point, there is a space where the two must meet: The customer. Indeed, both sales and marketing must understand “customer attributes,” and must track and manage all communications to the almighty customer.

Customer interactions must be captured in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, How can any company establish complete customer/prospect profile without one?

This master portrait becomes more important when you consider the importance of up-selling and cross-selling. Ostrow references the age-old assumption that “it’s easier to keep an existing customer, than to find a new one.” This is an expression I’ve heard time and again, and have used once or twice myself.  While many industries have tried to attribute quantifiable costs to defining what that means to profitability, one can easily support the theory that the cost to obtain a new customer can be several times more costly (measured in dollars) compared to the possible pennies necessary to maintain a current client.

Why, then, are so many service professionals, sales representatives, and account executives uncomfortable making that effort toward maintaining valuable customer information? Is it because they have not drawn the parallel between CRM compliance and customer retention? This reality of not keeping customer information current  flies in direct conflict with the Ostrow survey respondents’ goals, 53% of whom indicated that their primary goal would be to increase “share of the customer’s wallet” or potential spend with the company.

I’m certain that, like me, you’ve even experienced an almost directly contrary perception from companies who don’t seem to care if they lose your business (cable, cell phone, auto) – not making good on promises, warranties, or guarantees. Yet, as the article points out, consumers are more educated than ever before and expect far greater levels of service than ever.

Begging the question, “Why are you not valuing what you worked so hard to achieve?!”

Much of this report focuses on the importance of data, and I have to agree that knowing your customer and understanding their value is critical to success. I would go one step further, however, pointing to the importance of individual perception and employee authority to make decisions that are right to maintain customer loyalty, as long as those decisions are right for the company. This hearkens to a deeper understanding of your customers than any data set can provide.

While this paper focuses almost exclusively on datasets and continuity of process, which I agree is important (and often strives for in day-to-day life), it disregards entirely the core attribute of “caring about the customer,” without which business cannot be earned nor retained.

Go back, for a moment, to the uncomfortable feeling often associated with trying to retain customers.  The report validates that companies in general are not passionate about customer surveys or focus groups to benchmark customer satisfaction (or heaven forbid what the competition is doing), with responding companies only ranging from 32% to 53% doing so. Almost like the company doesn’t want to know how their customers feel…

In order to run a successful company that thrives for its customers, employees and shareholders, the truth must be known. A 360-degree view of the customer and the company can only exist by defining actual customer behaviors, employee behaviors, and documenting human perceptions. Make sure you (the company) are looking in a real mirror not one that distorts your reflection to provide the best client experience possible.