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Published by: Mansi Bhandari on Jun 27, 2012
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Getting to know your customers The relationship between a loyal customer and succcessful organization is a dyna mic, ongoing process fueled by constant two way communication and responsiveness . The difference between an average and excellent organization is how effectively it obtains feedback from customers, listens to it, communicates the information internally and acts on it “Don't hard sell through constant advertisements and pitches ... listen to custome rs” Obtaining feedback from customers Successful companies strive continually to exceed their target customers' expect ations. To accomplish this, they listen to them and co-ordinate information to d evise the products and services they provide. Since the customer is always changing, a company needs all the listening posts i t can get. “All the smiles in the world aren't going to help you if your product or service i s not what the customer wants Carl Swell and Paul Brown” Listening posts include Web sites The company website offers an dexcellent arena to obtain feedback quickly and ea sily. Make most email functionality by soliciting general feedback prominently o n your site and posting email addresses for designated contact people. Scan bulletin boards on your competitor websites to see what people say about yo ur products. Social Media Monitor what people are saying about your company and its offering through socia l media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well as blogs Audits Audit takes many forms. The most popular among them is 'mystery shopping'. Use d esignated mystery shoppers make actual visits to your company's retail or busine ss sites, use the customer care service or purchase and use its porducts or serv ices and then report on their experiences. Many regard that it offers a high deg ree of objectivity, although employees can regard it as unfair or even spying if not evenly conducted to identify areas for improvement. Market Research Mainly pursued by large corporations since small businesses may not be able to c ommission such extensive studies. Focus Groups Many kinds of groups from small, informal meetings to elaborate, carefully orche strated sessions. The informal group of customer from a target market can help y our company test an initial product idea, design or concept. Such groups are excellent for testing products and services but the results are often contradictory which can send an unfocused company into disarray. Ordering process One of the most overlooked listening posts is a company's ordering process. Whet her an order is taken in person, over the phone or on the web, you can gain valu able information from customers by asking them the right questions and listening carefully. Satisfaction cards Most service industries give customers a chacne to fill out guest satisfaction c ards. They are prevalent in industries like food and lodging, healthcare and aut omotive care. Surveys A well designed survery can help you determine what you are doing to deliver the greatest satisfaction or the lack of it. It helps the useful strategies with th e blunt ones. Managers can use the information gathered from surveys to replicate the most suc

cessful strategies and solve any problem areas. Customer service process Complaints that arise in the course of serving a customer should be carefully st udied and responded to promptly. This also helps employees identify customers th at need extra attention Follow up calls This method is recently adopted by many companies to ask serviced customers abou t their experience and to check if everything worked out in the best way possibl e. This helps kickstart a lasting relationship with a new customer. This is an e xcellent tool but the company should do this to genuinely ask about service and not to sell more. In some cases, one may encounter a service failure; the following are the steps for achieving excellent service recovery. 1. Find out what the problem is ◦ Listen carefully to the customer's explanation of the problem ◦ Ask questions to clarify ◦ Paraphrase to be sure you understand the problem 2. Find out what the customer expects you to do about it. ◦ Listen to what the customer wants you to do about the problem ◦ if you can meet the expectations, offer assurances that you will solve it 3. Take personal responsibility for solving the problem ◦ Offer to help ◦ Don't pass the problem along to someone else ◦ Know the policies of your organization ◦ Explain the options calmly 4. Go out of your way to make the customer comfortable ◦ If more time is needed, ensure that the customer is comfortable during the wait ◦ Offer complimentary lunch, coffee or anything to show that you care 5. Maintain an objective frame of mind ◦ Remain calm even if the customer is angry or frustrated 6. Stay positive and calm ◦ Apologise for the problem even if it's not your fault ◦ Don't blame others for it ◦ Never tell them that the same problem occurs frequently 7. Resolve the problem quickly ◦ Think resourcefully. Try to determine the fastest and effective way to solve ◦ Offer reasonable alternative if you can't give the customer exactly what he or s he wants ◦ Stay involved even if a third party is solving the problem 8. Follow through ◦ Never ask if the problem was solved. The customer expects you to know the answer . ◦ Send a letter of apology, gift or premiums such as coupons. 9. Look at the big picture ◦ Determine a solution if the problem is recurring ◦ Try to put a cost on poor recovery 10. Look for common problems in the recovery process itself ◦ Some examples could be Wrong selection of people to handle recovery Inadequate internal support systems Poor training Insufficient latitude / empowerment of personnel Observing Customers Obtaining feedback iscrucial and so is watching them when using the product. The re is simply no substitute for direct observation of your customers. For example, a major photocopying machine company observed that they were usuall y placed in store rooms. People frequently stood on the machien to reach the hig hest shelves. So, they designed the product strong enough to support a person's weight.

Steps for observing customers and designing solutions 1. Have a diverse team. An engineer might observe mechanical interactions w hile a designer observes space and forms 2. Capture the data through silent observations using video recordings, dra wing, notes 3. Collate and analyze the data with colleagues and others who weren't pres ent in the observation 4. Brainstorm solutions ◦ Defer judgment ◦ Build on the idea of others ◦ Hold one conversation at a time ◦ Stay focused on the topic ◦ Encourage wild ideas 5. Narrow the field of solutions Determine the criteria for choosing solutions ◦ What functions are essential? ◦ What criteria are determined by the company's values? ◦ What are cost constraints? ◦ What is the size and shape of constraint (for product)? ◦ What is the time limit? Given these constraints, determine which solutions will be compatible with exist ing products and servies? 6. Develop prototype of possible solutions ◦ They show the clarity (or lack thereof) of the concept to the team ◦ It stimulates reaction and fosters discussion with potential customers ◦ Two prototypes are used at time – one functional without form and one with form bu t not functional

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