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The Value of Long Engagements by Will Bermender

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Building shareholder value by building customer relationships that drive customer acquisition, retention and profitability across the enterprise. Will Bermender, Customer Interface Magazine, March 2000

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The Value of Long Engagements by Will Bermender

  1. 1. The Value of Long Engagements Success relies on getting your customers to say, ‘I do.’ Customer influence has always shaped the XX way companies compete, from the early ZZZdays of the Industrial Revolution and mass production to the quality revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s. Businesses are scrambling to take advantage of new channels, service standards and personalization. But with nearly every company instituting data mining, CRM or knowledge management tools, these techniques are quickly becoming table stakes. Building a great company–customer rela- tionship is not just about tracking static customer information and purchase patterns so CSRs can suggest a new product or service that a customer may be likely to purchase. It is more than customer profiling. Customers don't want to receive constant communications; they want to be involved in interactions, to participate in dialogues, to be engaged in the relationship. The competitive advantage is in building a relationship so strong that customers feel they can't go to the competition; that doing so is tantamount to abandoning a trusted friend. You have to engage the customer in a two-way, open forum. When customers are actively engaged in the relationship, they will feel as if they are a part of the company. Going to the competition will be unthinkable. Three factors are critical to successfully engaging the customer: Understand all five W's. Most companies xxxknow four of the five W's that drive customer behavior: Who the customer is, what customers say they want, where they want to purchase and when they would like to purchase. But very few delve into why their customers behave as they do. Knowing the "why" is the key to interacting with customers more effectively and making the extrapolations necessary to come up with innovative, hard-to- duplicate products and services. Coca-Cola Co. made perhaps the greatest marketing mistake of all time by not under- standing the true reasons consumers drink Coke. Market research and thousands of taste tests revealed that consumers actually liked the taste of New Coke better than the original. Eager to compete with Pepsi, Coca-Cola decided that if consumers liked the taste better, New Coke must be what they wanted. That fateful decision almost cost Coca-Cola its enterprise. Coca-Cola neglected to consider that consum- ers drink Coke as much for the tradition, image and personality of the brand as they do for the taste. Coca-Cola learned the hard way how important knowing the "why" is. Understand and engage the customer XX continuously over long periods of time. Customers' life events change who they are and what they want and need. A new college graduate has very different needs and wants from those of a newlywed, new mother or re- tiree. Companies that learn to grow with their customers and offer the right products, services and interactions at the right times will enhance their ability to create true loyalty. Create an environment for customers to xx become an extension of the company. Directly involving the customer is critical to truly engaging him. Customers must be given the opportunity to dialogue with the company and to provide ideas, inspiration and direction. Companies may excel at driving true loyalty by incorporating the input, guidance and direction of those controlling the market. Webster's defines "relationship" as a "mutual exchange between two people or groups who have dealings with each other." Most companies view customer relationships not as mutual ex- changes, but as one-way communications. They view customers as static objects rather than living, changing beings. They see customers as revenue opportunities but not as business part- ners. With the customer relationship itself shaping up as the next great battleground for customer loyalty and competitive advantage, engaging the customer will become a vital com- ponent to any CRM strategy. Will Bermender has spent the past decade driving customer acquisition, retention and profitability as a customer service officer across the Fortune 500 landscape. Do you have a Point of View? Send it to CIrespond@advanstar.com and we just might publish it. The competitive advantage is in building a relationship so strong that customers feel they can’t go to the competition. WILLILLILLILL BERMENDERERMENDERERMENDERERMENDER

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