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Three approaches to customer service

By The ICON Team on 05/10/2017 - 0 Comments

Being customer-centric means looking after the people who buy from you – a simple, desirable goal. But in an ever more complex world of software and social media, true customer-centricity that goes beyond rhetoric is no mean feat.
Broadly speaking, there are just three approaches to customer service: one is putting the customer at the heart of your business, the second is pretending to, but not really doing it, and the third is putting the customer last and celebrating the fact!

Oddly, the third of these scenarios is not packed with failed businesses; in fact it’s a growth industry. The “budget” sector – home to some of the world’s most successful airlines, supermarket chains and travel firms – offers customers the lowest possible level of service at the cheapest possible price.

In this brave new world, businesses are transparent about their limited service, and customers appreciate the opportunity to dip in and dip out without being offered a complimentary head massage or being asked to fill in a “How are we doing?” form.
Is the customer always right?

Self-styled “ultra-low cost” airline Ryanair is at the very core of this approach. As with all short-haul carriers, it has been affected by higher fuel costs and the eurozone crisis, but it still managed to pile up impressive, ever increasing sales.

This despite a string of baffling announcements from Ryanair’s senior management that seem to imply the customer is merely an inconvenient necessity. Take chief executive officer Michael O’Leary’s idea that passengers should stand on short trips to make room for more fare-payers, or his (reported) ill-fated plans to introduce on-the-spot charges for mid-air toilet use. Has anyone forgotten the recent poorly managed cancelation of flights and inconvenience to customers?

Then there are the regular complaints from customers about “hidden” charges in the booking process, and the firm’s previous plan to introduce planes with bigger doors so that passengers can be shepherded on and off in double-quick time.

But in businesses whose marketing collateral is awash with customer-centric language – where the customer is number one – the delivery often falls short of putting a smile on your face.

Fundamentally, there are three processes that ICON recommends are key to any successful customer-centric campaign,

First, an intelligent and comprehensive database is required to track and record all details of customer interactions and behaviours.

Second, you must have the tools and technology in place that will enable you to make sense of the data and maintain its accuracy.

Finally there must be a process for the ongoing capture of up-to-date consumer data, behaviour and interactions. This data provides you with the required insight into the history of the customer’s interactions, relationship and behaviours that enables the marketer to successfully adapt and target their approach for each individual.

Sounds simple enough, right? But the process is littered with complications and pitfalls that can cause businesses to do it half-heartedly, and to stop short of the thorough process that creates the fullest customer picture.

Customer-centricity then is about doing, not saying. It is capturing data, offering people more of what they like and less of what they don’t like and, above all, dealing with them as individuals and as human beings with personalities.

Get the right balance, and your organisation will benefit from a growing group of delighted and loyal customers who feel cared for and appreciated. They will tell their friends. Get it right and you won’t need to write “the customer is king” on your marketing materials, because they will already know it.

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