Rather than transforming the customer experience, many businesses have inadvertently created a fragmented marketplace in which sales, service and marketing is at best inconsistent, and at worst, frustrating. According to a recent Accenture survey, 91 per cent of executives said a greater focus on customer

service and building customer loyalty is critically important, not only in weathering the economic downturn, but also in strategically positioning their business for its eventual upswing.

Here are a few tips on how to foster, sustain and revitalize customer relationships:

  • Get to know your customer

Gone are the days when a “”one-to-all”” mentality prevailed – when “”spray-and-pray”” marketing rules and unidirectional communications were sent to masses of faceless customers. Just 20 years ago, 80 per cent of target audiences in many countries could be reached with one 30-second, off-peak television slot. Today, achieving that sort of market penetration would take 200-300 primetime TV spots. Take into account that 3,000 one-way messages bombard the average consumer everyday, and it’s easy to see how tough it is for marketers to cut through the clutter to make their messages heard.

Customers control the purchasing experience. Let them control the marketing experience as well. By this, we mean that you should use every interaction with a customer – from a phone call to a Web click, to an angry letter complaining of shoddy service – to gather insights and propel your messages to the next level. Customer information should be dynamic and provide a powerful barometer of customer likes and dislikes.

  • Deliver on your promise

Companies that consistently execute and deliver what customers expect, need and value are able to build and sustain long-term customer relationships. Give them what they asked for – as customer loyalty rises, so will brand value and ultimately, revenue.

  • Turn customer interactions into an open dialogue

Many companies assume that just bolting on new technology – such as sales force automation software or adding new services will enhance customer relationships. This assumption is as pernicious as it is false. After all, you can’t sell what people don’t want to buy, no matter how efficient and service oriented your sales team. Companies still need to harness customer insights at all interaction points. These insights then build on one another to create intelligent and profitable dialogues between you and your customers.

  • Provide a more efficient way for customer transactions

By the time customers walk into your business – or log-on to your Web site, or call your sales centre – most already know what they want and how much they’re willing to pay. With easy access to mountains of information, today’s customers do their homework, and they now have the upper hand in most purchase transactions.

Customers enjoy convenience. The “”I want it the way I want it and when I want it”” phrase has become the anthem of customers everywhere. At the end of the day you don’t want your customer to walk away from a purchase. Use your insight into the customer and transform their purchasing experience. Businesses who try to be all things to all customers face a harsh reality that brings to mind the old adage: You can please some of the people most of the time and most of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

  • Learn from your own experiences

We have all been customers. What have been your expectations and experiences? You expect the best service, product and delivery system. Treat your customers like you would like to be treated and you have already made progress in customer retention.

Toronto-based partner, Jerry Garcia, is one of Canada’s leading experts in customer relationship management. Mr. Garcia directs Accenture’s Customer Interaction practice, which provides clients with market-leading capabilities for optimizing the performance of sales and service channels, and increasing return on these CRM investments.

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