Get out of your bunker

I keep meeting family businesses and SMEs that seem to be stuck in some sort of time warp. The reality around them has changed but they did not. Then they act surprised as to why clients are not flocking to them as they once did.

Every interaction between a company and a customer is an opportunity. For the company, it’s a chance to reinforce brand quality and value with the goal of achieving customer satisfaction and loyalty. For the customer, it’s a chance to provide input on their needs, satisfaction with previous experiences and expectations for future engagements with the company.

However many times I meet family businesses that take and have taken, for quite some time, this interaction for granted. Family businesses need to constantly have an outward mindset and ask themselves: How can we best organise and position ourselves through our marketing, product offering and customer support to create a compelling customer experience that address the needs of today’s client? Here are some pointers to achieve this:

  • The Need of a Marketing Ecosystem: Gone are the days when converting customers was merely a matter of beating your competitors. Today businesses need to take an active role in orchestrating their position in a marketing ecosystem to influence the customer journey. Such a marketing ecosystems rest on things like digital technology, embracing knowledge and having an intelligent integration of data and insights to position your business intelligently in the market.
  • Aligning Company and Customer Needs: Marketing is not just about advertising (a common misconception). Market research is fundamental to your company’s efforts to create a compelling customer experience. Businesses need to understand how customers perceive their brands, products, services — and why. Then you use all the insights learnt from such market research to create a better alignment between the company’s and customers’ wants and needs. More often than not, managers underestimate customers’ expectations and overestimate their customers’ loyalty to their business and brands.
      • Delivering Customer Convenience: Customers wants and needs are changing…FAST. Customers are looking for convenience more than ever before. Everyone is leading a busy lifestyle. So now, more than ever before, customers want to be able to buy the product or service they need at a time and place that’s convenient to them. They expect companies to solve this time/place convenience so that the purchasing experience is a seamless part of their journey. Today’s ever-accelerating demands by customers for convenience will be a benefit to agile companies and likely painful for unresponsive ones or those deeply stuck in their bunker.
      • Make sure to get Digital Marketing right: There are important differences between customers’ online and in-person experiences. Online customers view the purchase value (i.e., product quality relative to the price) as a significant attribute when rating satisfaction, and they are more satisfaction-sensitive when making repurchase decisions. However I many times see businesses that hardly understand the difference between an online client and a brick-and-mortar one. Moreover, businesses cannot ignore social media. Social media is one way to align the company’s and customers’ needs, creating an embedded and compelling customer experience, and facilitate high levels of customer satisfaction.
        • Be at the forefront of today’s current themes: More and more persons and clients are increasingly concerned with environmental & sustainability issues. Business leaders should pursue efforts in seeing how to best implement sustainability initiatives and keep costs under control.
        • Work on the internal culture: Customer-centric companies develop a culture in which employees are encouraged to develop deeper and more long-lasting relationships with customers. Hence developing such a culture is pivotal in achieving a better customer experience for your clients.
        • Handle Customer Complaints appropriately: Businesses should appreciate customers who complain. But complaints take time and effort to resolve and can be a significant drain on the company’s resources. The positive is that companies that handle complaints superbly can gain stronger customer loyalty than before the complaint. Companies that take complaints seriously typically develop more competitive brands and are often better equipped than other companies to create a compelling customer experience. Complaint handling has to be almost perfect, for customers to come back and be as satisfied as before they complained. Unfortunately, many dissatisfied customers opt not to complain. These non-complaining but disgruntled customers instead leave the company and buy substitute products & services. The takeaway is that it is often better to have customers complain than not complain (and simply leave) if the company can handle the complaint in a satisfactory way.

          As I keep repeating, family business & SMEs need to repeatedly get out of their insular bunker and constantly have a good look around them. They need to see how customers needs are changing to then create a compelling customer experience. Creating and managing such a compelling customer experience is as important for a company as managing the company’s finances. An understanding of how things are evolving and how to change things within the business to achieve a compelling customer experience, will in turn have positive effects on customers’ mindsets (e.g., satisfaction, loyalty), customers’ behaviours (e.g., acquisition, retention), market performance (e.g., market share), and financial outcomes.

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