PROVIDE MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL CUSTOMER SERVICE
BY JAGDEEP KAPOOR
For regular customers, please devise a loyalty programme, which treats these customers like royalty.
When a satisfied customer repeats his purchase again and again, or when he recommends other customers because he is satisfied, the net result is a healthy bottom line in which both customer and company mutually benefit. My Profitable Customer Service thus enables both to profit from the Brand Experience.
Profitable Customer Service is full of benefits – first to the customer and then to the organisation. It is important to understand that when Customer Service is profitable there are both tangible and intangible advantages to both parties. Loyalty Programmes give the customers additional advantages and the company a greater frequency of business.
Shopper’s Stop in Mumbai started its First Citizen’s Club for frequent shoppers. Every time a First Citizen’s Club member makes a purchase, he notches up a number of points. These he allowed to encash once they reach a certain figure. Naturally, the higher the number of points accumulated, the better the prize that can be redeemed. Shopper’s Stop has three types of privileges card members – gold card, silver card and ordinary card. Along with this simple scheme to boost business by giving customers additional goodies come the other advantages. Like a newsletter to keep customers informed about in-store activities. A ‘members only” queue for the cash counter so that the First Citizens of Shopper’s Stop do not have to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi. A few hours of exclusive shopping time for club members at festival times when the rush is heavy. Like they say, if you are a First Citizen, you get first choice.
In the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) segment, a powerful adhesive brand, Fevicol, runs an excellent mutually beneficial loyalty programme called the Fevicol Champion’s Club. The Primary target audience is the carpenter who is given not only exclusivity of club membership but also has the opportunity to attend carpenter meets where his skills are enhanced and his participation and involvement is encouraged.
It is an excellent Brand Experience opportunity in which the brand, Fevicol, the ‘Champion’ adhesive, actually provides mutual benefit to champion carpenters and the company. There is a deep desire on the part of carpenters to belong to the Fevicol Champion’s Club.
Jet Airways too has a Frequent Flyer Programme which awards flying miles with every ticket purchased from the airline. Regular customers also get the advantage of the Jet Airways tie-up with British Airways. As a result of all this, customers prefer to fly Jet whenever there’s a need for domestic travel.
The Taj Inner Circle gives members special privileges whenever they use any Taj hotel anywhere in the world. Customers collect points when they use the facilities of the hotel chain and then redeem them for special privileges.
Loyalty programmes are a good way to provide an opportunity for mutual benefit. This leads to Profitable Customer Service. The Customer Service Professional must carefully design the loyalty programme with three key elements of eligibility, privileges and validity in mind.
Solve Problems When They Are Small
To treat loyal customers in a royal manner, please solve problems when they are small. When a customer’s concerns are not addressed at the initial stages, they turn into problems. And if these problems are not tackled when they are small, they sometimes cascade into gigantic issues that can cause immense pain to the customer. Addressing concern at the outset, answering queries in a satisfactory manner and nipping problems in the bud really help clear the air for the customer.
A good Customer Service Professional is a solutions provider. An effective Customer Service Professional makes sure that he understands and appreciates the concerns, the difficulties the fears and the apprehensions of the customer. This way royal treatment is given to loyal customers.
When the customer has a problem, he is actually looking for help from the Customer Service Professional. It is prudent, therefore, for the Customer Service Professional to ensure that he does not give the customer the cold shoulder. Neither should he ridicule the customer. He should address the problem in a professional manner and come up with a satisfactory solution, holding the customer’s hand if necessary and even nursing him so that he can get on his feet again.
Look at this example of Customer Service in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry. In FMCG, the housewife (or adult or child) could be the consumer, while the distributor and retailer are customers of the company.
The company sells products to the distributor who in turn redistributes them to retailers from who consumers eventually buy.
Thus the first customer of the FMCG Company is the distributor. Ensuring distributor satisfaction is to ensure customer satisfaction at the first level.
At the second level, the customer is the retailer whose satisfaction is very important. Finally, and most importantly, there is the satisfaction of the consumer to reckon with. Those who consume the brand are the last level of the customer satisfaction chain.
A good Customer Service Professional makes sure that there is a pleasant Brand Experience and customer satisfaction at all three levels. He also gives royal treatment to loyal customers.
In one case, a distributor in Lucknow had a serious problem because his claims had not been settled by the company. This led to his working capital being blocked. In simple terms, it means that the distributor had run promotions and trade schemes in the market on behalf of the company and had not been reimbursed for his expenses. This put his finances through severe strain. He had been complaining about his problem for over six months but to no avail. Try as he might, he could not free his blocked capital.
The only recourse he saw was to stop making purchases from the company and this led to a large part of Lucknow being starved of the company’s products.
In this case, if the problem of claims reimbursement had been solved on time, there would have been distributor (customer) satisfaction. He would then have been able to regularly pick up stocks and feed the market.
This would have ensured that the retailers were kept happy, with constantly replenished stocks of the company’s products. And regular supply would not have necessitated consumers switching to alternative brands due to unavailability.
Abiding by my Problem-Solving Customer Service Prescription in a timely manner would have averted the ugly situation, which saw the products of the FMCG company disappear from the shops in Lucknow.
Buying an apartment in Mumbai can be a harrowing experience if the vendor is not the problem-solving type. In one instance, the task at hand was to retrieve the sale documents which go to the Registrar’s office and take an eternity to come back. Getting those documents back for the buyer can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.
But with a little help from the builder who knows the value of my Problem-Solving Customer Service Prescription, it can be a cake walk.
Though he is not obliged to help in the recovery of the documents, the builder as a Customer Service Professional may choose to enhance the Brand Experience and make the life of his customer easier by lending a hand and putting the final seal on the completed sale deal.
Moved by the genuineness of his customer’s problem, he may extend his services to solve his customer’s problem. If the customer is satisfied. The Customer Service Professional can rest assured that he has won him over.
He knows that one satisfied customer means several more customer means several more customers through the good word-of-mouth he earns from this satisfied customer. He knows if a customer is treated in a royal manner, he would get more loyal customers.
My problem-Solving Customer Service Prescription is like a stitch in time. It can save a lot if practiced before the problems festers. And to provide mutual benefits Profitable Customer Service gives added value, tangibly and intangibly, to the customers and allows the company to profit at the same time.
Royal treatment definitely leads to loyal customers. In your loyalty programme, treat customers like royalty.
The author is Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director of the successful Samsika Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved with Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
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