Post-sale Customer Loyalty


Maintaining the loyalty of major current customers can be crucial for improving a business’s profitability as its markets mature. Loyal customers become more profitable over time. The firm not only avoids the high costs associated with acquiring a new customer, but it typically  benefits because loyal customers a) tend to concentrate their purchases, thus leading to larger volumes and lower selling  and distribution costs, b) provide positive word-of-mouth and customer referrals, and c) may be willing to pay premium prices for the value they receive.

Periodic measurement of customer satisfaction is important, then, because a dissatisfied customer is unlikely to remain loyal to a company over time. Unfortunately, however, the corollary is not always true. Customers who describe themselves as satisfied are not necessarily loyal. Indeed, 60 to 80 percent of customer defectors in most businesses are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” before their defection. In the interim, perhaps, competitors improved their offerings, the customers requirements changed, or other environmental factors shifted. Businesses that measure customer satisfaction should be commended, but urged not to stop there. Satisfaction measures need to be supplemented with examinations of customer behavior, such as measures of the annual retention rate, frequency for purchases, and the percentage of a customer’s total purchases captured by the firm.

Defecting customers should be studied in detail to discover why the firm failed to provide sufficient value to retain their loyalty. Such failures often provide more valuable information than satisfaction measures because they stand out as a clear, understandable message  telling the organization exactly where improvements are needed..

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

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Attitude and Customer Liaison


Attitude is not always easy to understand, train or instill. It is generally defined as a positive, enthusiastic and helpful attitude – somebody that seems more alive and dead, it means somebody who seems to enjoy what they do or enjoys dealing with customers, not just somebody who happens to do this as a job to earn a living. Even though this may be true, a good customer service experience is one where the customer service person pretends if nothing else, that they enjoy their job – they like doing what they do and they are pleased to see the customer. If the customer representative can do this, the customer will pretend to enjoy buying from them and pretend enough that they will probably come back.

One of the most important aspects of attitude is when the customer is dissatisfied. The customer will then seem to view life through a telephoto lens and every detail or every aspect of the interaction will come under scrutiny. Therefore, the attitude must be to look at a glass of water as half full, instead of half empty.

One of the most important and outward expression of attitude is the verbal and non-verbal behavior that people use at critical times. Simple expressions, such as: ‘I can do that’ or ‘There’s nothing I can do’ or ‘That’s our company policy’ or ‘I only work here’ or ‘You’ve come through to wrong extension,’ only frustrate the customer. Some of these factors, of course, may not be because of anything the person can do; however, it is their attitude that will often create more of an annoyance with the customer than the policy itself. A simple solution to this is that whenever somebody has to be told they can’t do something, within the same sentence they have to know what they can do or may do.

The attitude that will work, if you can instill it, is that every single customer is your most important customer. Instead of seeing a customer for the transaction value that they spend at that time or for the nature of their enquiry, see the customer as a million dollar customer, somebody who has access to large revenue, either through their direct spending or indirectly through referrals and repeat business.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Building Business Pipeline


  1. Every week, select ten companies or organizations that meet your ‘target’ market profile. List these names, addresses and phone numbers. Select these carefully and include referrals.
  2. Make a research cell to each and identify the most appropriate initial contact. You do not need to speak to this person at this stage, talk to the receptionist or assistant instead.
  3. Send a one-page ‘success’ letter and a very brief overview of what benefits you can offer. Mail on a Thursday or Friday. Focus on your capabilities and how you can benefit the prospect.
  4. Telephone each ‘suspect’ that you mailed within 3-5 days. As 50 percent will be unavailable, log callbacks in your diary. Don’t be surprised if they don’t remember your letter, review it on the phone. Dropping names or using benefits by association can be useful.
  5. Have a prepared call sheet, questions and reasons for an appointment (your goal is a short initial meeting). Offer a benefit to your meeting: share ideas, examples, etc.
  6. Set aside time each week for research, mailing and planning – consistency is vital for this to work. You might find it better to aim for one hour a day rather than one whole day each week.
  7. Maintain accurate but brief reports to monitor your progress and to track activity.
  8. After approximately 10-12 weeks of containing new suspects, reduce the new contacts by between 50 percent and 80 percent and instead go back through all those people you contacted previously and re-contact them, i.e., stay in touch with suspects and prospects every three months. Things often change and if you have selected potential prospects well, it may only be a matter of time before you do business.
  9. Make sure that the subsequent 90 day contact contains something new, interesting or different, even if only very slightly. This also makes sure that you don’t appear too pushy.

10.  No matter how busy you get, always make time to keep in touch with new suspects and prospects in this way on a planned and consistent basis.

The rules:

  1. Do not allow any one customer to contribute more than 30 percent of you sales in any given quarter.
  2. Make sure that at least 30 percent of your sales pipelines is from new business, the rest should be from existing customers or referrals. Do not rely on existing customers to the exclusion of new customers.
  3. Always have a third more sales in the pipeline than you need.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Creating an Integrated Marketing Communications Program (IMC)


a)        Use zero-based budgets. Most companies use incremental approaches in allocating promotional budgets. A preferred approach is the objective and task approach. Start with a zero budget and force all promotional managers managers to justify their investment.

b)        Focus primarily on current customers. Many organizations direct 80% or more of their advertising and selling effort activities to trying to win new business (conquest marketing).  An Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program recognizes the importance of retention marketing and inverts that ratio so that a majority of the promotional activity is earmarked for relationship building with existing customers. This reduces customer defection, upgrades business relationships, and creates advocates for the firm’s services.

c)        Use highly targeted mass promotion. Direct mail, specialized lists, trade publications, and the Internet can be used effectively to reach prospects rather than suspects. A website has become an indispensable marketing technology for 21st century companies. It has evolved into a one-stop, online corporate information source, customer support tool, distribution channel, order taker, product catalog, price list, promotional vehicle, research technique, segmentation source, and a strategic and tactical marketing differentiator.

d)        Build marketing relationships. Strategic partnering is a major part of a good IMC program. In addition to Internet and intranets (protected corporation information resource centers), progressive companies are creating extranets which link an enterprise’s extended family of suppliers, distributors, retailers, and partners. Hence, customer, channel, referral, and stakeholder relationships can all be nurtured through carefully conceived promotional efforts.

e)        Note that everything an organization does send a message. Image and atmospherics are very important in communicating value to customers. The little things, such as stationery, signage, telephone greetings, and website design, etc., should all reflect professionalism and a consistent message to the marketplace.

f)          Two-way dialogue is key. In an over-communicated society, the marketing challenge is to establish a meaningful dialogue with customers as to how the firm’s service mix can provide maximum benefits/value. Interactivity and involvement on the part of the customers is important for sharing information and creating firmer bonds. The Web is an ideal medium to accomplish this objective. Its selectivity and flexibility create a customized business experience for each user.

g)        Use 21st century communication technologies. In today’s changing marketplace, companies must seek new and better ways to stay in touch with their target markets. Appropriate communication options include e-mail, electronic commerce, fax-on-demand, telemarketing, point-of-sale promotion, special events, multimedia, etc.

h)        Measure promotional effectiveness. Traditionally, advertising executives competed with sales managers for their “fair share” of the corporate promotional budget. Today, management requires accountability and demands to know and justify the return on investment of limited resources—they will no longer accept the non-measurable communications methods used by marketers in the past. A marketing information system/database is the key tool for effectively monitoring and measuring the success of an IMC program. As part of this process, job descriptions and reward systems are likely to be redesigned. In a strong IMC-centered environment, in-house competition is replaced with cooperation and teamwork. Joint rewards help the organization do what is best, rather than just project individual turfs.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Transaction-based Marketing Vs. Relationship Marketing


As marketing has entered the 21st Century, a significant change is taking place in the way companies interact with customers. The traditional view of marketing as a simple exchange process—a concept that might be termed transaction-based marketing—is being replaced by a different, longer-term approach.

Traditional marketing strategies focused on attracting consumers. The goal was to identify prospects, convert them to customers, and complete sales transactions. But today’s marketers realize that, although it remains important, attracting new customers is truly an intermediate step in the marketing process. Marketing efforts must focus on establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with existing customers. These efforts must expand to include suppliers and employees, as well.

The concept, called relationship marketing, refers to the development, growth, and maintenance of long-term, cost-effective exchange relationships with individual customers, suppliers, employees, and other partners for mutual benefits. It broaches the scope of external marketing relationships to include suppliers, customers, and referral sources. In relationship marketing, the term customer takes on a new meaning. Employees serve customers within an organization as well as outside it; individual employees and their departments are customers of and suppliers to one another. They must apply the same high standards of customer satisfaction to inter-departmental relationships as they do to external customer relationships. Relationship marketing recognizes the critical importance of internal marketing to the success of external marketing plans. Programs that improve customer service inside a company also raise productivity and staff morale, resulting in better customer relationships outside the firm.

Relationship marketing gives a company new opportunities to gain a competitive edge by moving customers up a loyalty hierarchy from new customers to regular purchasers, then to loyal supporters of the company and its goods and services, and finally to advocates who not only buy the  company’s products but recommend them to others. by converting indifferent customers into loyal ones, companies generate repeat sales. The cost of maintaining existing customers is far below the cost of finding new ones, and these loyal customers are profitable ones.

Effective relationship marketing relies heavily on information technologies such as computer databases that record customers’ tastes, price preferences, and lifestyles alongwith the increase of electronic communications. This technology helps companies become one-to-one marketers that gather customer-specific information and provide individually customized goods and services. The firms target their marketing programs to appropriate groups, rather than relying on mass-marketing campaigns. Companies who study their customers’ preferences and react accordingly gain distinct competitive advantages.

Firms in service industry, from retailers to hotels to airlines, are among the leaders in relationship marketing. Their staff members have many opportunities to meet customers personally and build loyalty and repeat business. Rewards for frequent buyers of a firm’s goods or services, such as hotel programs that reward frequent visitors with free room stays and other travel documents, are another form of relationship marketing.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Staying Close to Customers


  • Show them that you think of them. Send or fax helpful newspaper clippings, relevant articles, and greeting and birthday cards. How about sending a card on the anniversary of the day they became your customers?
  • Tell them what’s new. It is a good way to stay in touch and increase sales or get referrals.
  • Offer “valued customer” discounts. These can take the form of coupons, letters, or other sales promotions. This not only garners more orders; it also makes your customers happy to be getting such good deals.
  • Compensate customers for lost time or money if they were caused by problems with your product or service. Use a well thought-out recovery program and stick to it. Better to err on the side of generosity than lose an account out of stinginess!
  • Be personal. Keep notes in your customer files on every little detail you know—everything from spouse and children’s names to hobbies, and especially their behavioral style.
  • Always be honest. Nothing undermines your credibility more severely than dishonesty. Lies have a way of coming back to haunt you.
  • Accept returns unconditionally. The few bucks you might lose in the short run are far less than what you gain from pleasing the customer.
  • Honor your customer’s privacy. If you have been a truly consultative salesperson, you may possess some knowledge that should be kept confidential. Your ethical standards should demand that you keep it that way.
  • Keep your promises. Never, ever promise something that you cannot deliver. This principle applies to little things such as returning phone calls as well as big things like delivery dates. If you must, ‘baby-sit’ deliveries and promised service to see that they are realized. Your reputation is on the line.
  • Give feedback on referrals. This is the right way to show your appreciation for the referral. Tell your customer the outcome. This is also a good way to get more referrals without asking for them directly.
  • Make your customers famous … for 15 minutes. If your enterprise has a newsletter, ask customers for permission to write about their success. Then send a copy to your customer. The same can be done for local newspapers and other publications.
  • Keep lines of communication open. As in any relationship, assure your customers that you are open to all calls about everything and anything – ideas, grievance, advice, praise, questions etc. This is one ay to maintain that all-important rapport.

 Remember that people do business with people they like!

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight