Do You Hear Your Customers?

Producing profitable income, requires the effective management by the commercial manager of all those resources that collectively identify, anticipate and satisfy customer requirements. Part of the commercial manager’s responsibility is the effective communication with the market, as well as existing and potential customers.

Observation of the business and marketing press suggests that organisations spend a lot of time and money on what are generally called “marketing communications”, in order to send their message to potential and existing customers. Such communications may be through the traditional media of advertising and public relations, but now increasingly involve social media, the internet and customer relationship management activities.

While organisations may be very effective in the outward communication of their message, there is often reason to question is how good are they in receiving communications from their customers? Customer’s interests should be at the heart of every business, as it is they who provide the income which makes profit for the owners, income for the employees, and on which the long term future of the business depends. Yet increasingly from anecdotal reports, it would seem that the last thing many organisations wish to have, is uninvited communication from their existing and potential customers. The evidence for this situation lies in many areas.

While it may not be a deliberate organisational policy to limit effective communication from existing and potential customers, it is frequently an organization’s management processes that can make it difficult. For many existing and potential customers, the problem of effective communication with an organisation, starts in finding their address, and identifying responsible individuals within to whom they can address their concern and questions.

Business web-sites generally give lots of information about respective organisations, what they do, and frequently how to make an order or request standard information. However, when it is necessary to contact the organisation and identify a responsible individual, there may be difficulties. Contact information on web-sites can often be hidden away so that it is difficult to find. Customers may be invited to contact a customer service centre via e-mail or telephone which may in fact be out sourced to a different organisation entirely, rather than be part of the company’s own office structure. In such a case, the customer will have great difficulty in finding and accessing the responsible individual that they seek.

When customers telephone business organisations, they are frequently answered by call management systems, rather than a person. While call management systems are often installed by organisations on the grounds of efficiency and cost effectiveness, they frequently create irritation with the customer, especially when they are subjected to multiple menus which create confusion and frustration. When callers are able to facilitate a connection to a specific individual, it seems that they are frequently connected to a voice mail system, regardless of whether the individual is present or not. Worse still, is when the customer is confronted with a company policy that refuses to identify responsible individuals on the grounds of its “security policy”.

For the commercial manager, responsible for producing profitable income, anticipating and satisfying customer demand is essential. Thus while managing the organisation’s effective communications regarding its image and its offer to its market is of prime importance, it is even more important to maintain and improve the channels of communication from the customers and potential customers to the organisation. Most organisations if asked, will state that they have good two way communications with their market, but the question is, “how do you know?” For the commercial manager, it would be wise to assume that the channels of communication from the market are probably not as good as may be thought, and probably need improvement.

There are a number of things that a Commercial manager should do;

* Have the organisation’s web site independently evaluated for clarity, coherence, ease of access and contact information.
* Ensure that all company brochures contain full contact details.
* Ensure that all communications from existing and potential customers are answered promptly.
* Use secret callers to establish the ease of access via telephone and to evaluate the response, as well as the response to e-mail and letters.
* Use the information from secret callers, and website evaluation to formulate a clear company policy for receiving outside contact to improve customer perceptions and channels of communication.

The way that a company responds to communication from its existing or potential customers indicates the level of importance that they give them. If customers consider that they are regarded as of little or no importance, from the response or lack of it that they receive, they can quickly go elsewhere and take their money with them.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 02 Nov 14

November 5, 2014   Posted in: business development, business efficiency, Business Marketing, business performance improvement, business performance management, marketing management