The festive time of the year is fast approaching. Customers will be even more demanding this year as compared to last, and let’s hope you are ready for the boom, albeit temporary. I am reminded of a local English pub that ran out of beer on a bank holiday. Why? Had the landlord forgotten that he would be busier on a bank holiday? Had the holiday suddenly appeared out of nowhere? No. The answer is that he was not organised and, as a result, was never going to maximize the day’s potential with no beer.
Are you ready for the higher demand? Well, if you are not, then I am sorry to say it is almost certainly too late now!
Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” At this time of year I believe a fantastic way of keeping customers happy and loyal is to thank them for their business. The festive season presents a wonderful opportunity to thank customers and staff for their loyalty during the past year. I know that money is tight, but there are many ways of saying “thank you” at no great cost. Believe me, it will still be appreciated. A card with a personal message from the organization (not preprinted) is great for customers. A personal telephone call from the account manager, to confirm the next order or perhaps to ensure that a customer receives products on time, despite the days lost over the holiday period, is a fantastic way of boosting customer loyalty.
Team leaders have their own way of saying “thank you,” but a director who makes time to drop in and show his appreciation is a great motivator at any time—especially at Christmas. Richard Branson always makes the effort with his staff by dialing into his call centres to speak personally with employees.
Keeping first-rate staff is of paramount importance in business, and, although many organizations are looking to streamline, do not fall into the trap of cutting costs by reducing staff numbers if the outcome is bad service to customers. It is vital to keep the balance right. This does worry me in some of the United Kingdom’s public sector organizations; staff levels are being reduced, and, unfortunately, customers will not receive the service that they have been enjoying in the last decade. Perhaps flatter structures could be the answer, but that is a personal view, and it certainly is not my responsibility, thank goodness!
A wise man once said, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” This means all organizations should be prepared to look again at their customer base, decide what support their high-value customers need, and reassess other customer segments that perhaps are not quite so demanding. However, never forget that customers’ expectations are increasing: this is never going to change.
Something that many businesses might also consider is to carry out an exercise to remove names from the customer database that are not actually customers and are never likely to be so in the future. Today many organizations, even small ones, have very large customer databases that go back years, and some organizations waste time and effort targeting every name in the database when many of these customers are no longer at all interested in the products the organizations sell. These marketing efforts are wasted, and customers will wonder why you have sent them a holiday message when you have not done business with them for years. Of course, it is not a bad thing to get in touch with old customers to try and revitalise the relationship, but it is best to ensure that their business still aligns with yours, that the relationship is a compatible one, or else time and effort is wasted. It is imperative that you know your customers today. Ask yourself, “Who are my target customers for 2012?”—then you can focus your marketing efforts to reach the right potential customers much more effectively.
Next year, I will focus on new, improved customer-centric strategies that will work for you and all your customers. Have a wonderful holiday season.