Developing 'Corner Store' Relationships with Customers is Critical

Today, we live in an age of fast changing Technology. The virtual world is getting so close to reality that even what seemed bizarre a few years ago, could be a definite possibility in the near future. There is hardly any aspect of human life which has not been affected by this change. This is the rate at which technology is growing and people expect new products to be friendlier and cost-efficient. Does your current CRM solution allow your business the flexibility to capture the needs and values of this new generation of choosy customers?

The benefits of this growth are innumerable. It has given consumers a world full of choices. There is a mind boggling variety and myriad options available for every single product category. Then, there is ease of transactions. The way business and transactions were carried out has gone through a sea change in the recent past. Processes have become much more user friendly and the idea is to target a large segment of clients in the shortest possible time.

However, the question for a business is how to sustain growth in this competitive environment. The technical advancements play a critical part in the overall business. But, what it doesn’t account for is the human factor. And that changes the axis on which the graph is being plotted. When one has people at the base, 'emotions' become an increasingly important deciding factor. In fact, it becomes more important than evident calculations proving profits and losses. Customers tend to attach more importance to what and how they feel about a brand and how they are treated. They can even let go of the monetary benefit in lieu of a better and more satisfying experience. And that is what companies need to focus on.
It is 6-7 times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer” - Bain & Company study in the Harvard Business Review.

The kind of client relationships that companies need to envisage and focus on building are the ones people have with their neighborhood 'corner stores'.
The above by far can be described as the one factor nurturing the human sentiment the most. Local corner stores' owners cater to their neighborhood, clients are mostly nearby residents and they frequently visit the premises. Owners usually know their clients on a first name basis and have an idea about their families, preferences and tastes. They are aware of the consumption levels and demands of their locality. This familiarity with customers likes and dislikes is also facilitated for organizations through an effective CRM solution's social networking tools. Salesman can now pleasantly surprise customers by offering products they are bound to like, similar to the way a corner store owner slips in the latest edition of your favorite magazine with the groceries.

With long term transactional relationships, a level of mutual trust also develops between the owner and customers. Now, that is a fairly small set up and the major argument could be - can this be applied by big organizations with hundreds of employees and thousands of clients to cater to? Store owners get so involved and show so much interest in their customers, primarily because they are the owner of their businesses. The profits and losses, the money they make is their own. So the prerogative completely lies with them.

In a large organization, the responsibility falls on the employees who act as touch points for the clients. Building client relationship is crucial for every business and in any company the emphasis and importance of this factor should be made clear to the employees. It is the thought process of individual employees that will determine the overall culture of the organization. If the focus is clear from top to bottom in an organization’s hierarchy, then building such client relationships are not an agenda which is out of reach.

70% of the customers left because of lack of attention from front-line employees" - International Customer Service Association.

Employees need to have a sense of ownership. Especially employees in customer facing roles need to understand the criticality of their position, as they directly represent the organization. Their job is not just to complete an error free transaction, but take the onus of making the overall experience very satisfying for the customer. That is the thought process the organization needs to inculcate. Clients, who do not have any emotional bond, will go to the competition for any discount option or promotion offered. On the other hand, clients who have had an unflattering experience might not be tempted back with similar offers. Customers might not remember the name of an individual employee who interacted with them, but they would always refer and link the experience they have had, with the brand. So while the top management works on strategies and changes involved, the implementation needs to be carried out at every level.

‘Corner Store’ relationships with clients is what will slowly create that bond. It ultimately taps the emotion factor, which has so far been neglected and not been accounted for. Giving a slight personal touch to the transaction makes all the difference. Using CRM solutions to ensure personalized greetings, best wishes and condolences are sent to customers is the first step in the right direction. With all the technical advancements being made, what still holds true is, humans are not driven by logic alone. Sentiments play a big decisive role. While customer loyalty is also a function of quality and utility experience, it can be heavily attributed to how a customer has been treated over time. Competition is extremely tough these days; ‘customer service’ has been identified as a huge distinguishing factor by most companies. But what needs a concurrent focus is the 'type' of client relationship that is being pursued. Exemplary service, moderate levels of personalized products and attention to detail for the client’s needs and requirements can place an organization a couple of notches higher than competition.

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