Improving the Organization to Improve the Customer Relationship

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We are all looking for a way to succeed; searching for the next great solution that can set our organization apart and become so ‘in demand’ that we can retire to a tropical island and live on of umbrella drinks and room service.  But is it really necessary to be the creator of the next ‘wonder widget’ or can we make changes to existing processes to bring about success?  The following points could be good starting points.

Grow from within:  The organizational brand isn’t solely owned by the marketing department.  It belongs to and should be understood by the entire organization.  It’s very important to build a brand externally but it is critical to educate and even market the brand to internal groups.

Answer the WHY questions:  Be sure to remain valuable to customers by asking WHY.   Why does someone what to spend their money with you?  Why does someone what to work for you?  Why does a community want to let you operate in their area?  Why would investors be drawn to you?  First ask why then build responses that highlight the values and opportunities your organization provides.

ImageBuild to a need:  Customers need something.  A marketer’s responsibility to find out what that need is and create messaging that attracts customers to a product or service.  Don’t make the message complicated and build a message that customers can see themselves as part of.

Communicate Clearly:  Just because an organization knows its own acronyms and abbreviations, doesn’t mean their customers and prospects do.  Keep communications clear and free of specialized jargon.

Keep the company and its message fresh:  A company may have a very clear and well understood place in the market landscape.  Customers may have a very clear understanding of what a company provides.  That’s great to have mind share but it is important to keep spreading the message and keeping awareness current.  Sometimes organizations can make changes that slowly change the perceived direction or outlook of that company.  Restating the company vision can help customers become comfortable with change and not react negatively to change when it occurs.

The customer persona:  A customer is a person.  They have specific needs, wants, budgets, histories, and habits.  They fit into a demographic profile that can help marketers build better messaging by generalizing how a group will respond based on analysis of these elements.  However discussing individual preferences and percentages can be a bit dull.  Instead of reporting on probability and statistical models, try building a persona of a ‘typical’ customer.  A persona isn’t a real person, just a constructed personality based on the statistical information that reflects a customer segment.   See a persona example here.  See how to engage personas here.

Understand the customer journey:  Each customer has a pathway they have taken to reach an organization.  The journey is very important to understand.  By analyzing the customer journey an organization can see each touch point they have shared.  They can see which interactions have been beneficial, which interactions lead to a purchase, which interactions led to a dropped customer.  The journey can reveal where employee training is needed.  The journey can point out where systems or process errors take place.  The journey reveals a vast amount of data to help the organization evolve.

Innovation is important:  Innovation is one element that can set an organization apart.  Innovation pushes not only a company ahead but also forces competition to innovate (sometimes through very close duplication) and consumers to adopt innovations into their business process.  Don’t innovate out of existence though.  Keep innovation alive but watch the market to make sure it is ready for the hot new products being built.  In technological innovation, the gap between innovation and adoption is sometimes called ‘the Chasm’ (Moore, 2002).  There is a life cycle to innovation, especially in technology.  It starts with Innovators followed by early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and the laggards. See more about the Chasm in the book by Geoffrey A More.

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By Craig Chelius (private communication with Craig Chelius) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Typically in the first half of the early adopters segment, there is a breakdown in the adoption process where a solution fails to advance.  There are a variety of reasons for this but mostly it is because an organization cannot get people to ‘cross the chasm’ and adopt the new innovation fast enough or with a large enough population.

Keep customers and their needs in mind as innovation occurs.  Some early adopters can be pulled along with innovation but appealing to the early majority is a necessary requirement to be successful.

These points may be considered common sense but sit back and ask a question: “Which company has not violated any of these suggestions?”   How does a marketer or even a customer, tell an organization that it needs to change?  How can an organization be told it needs to do a better job of listening and responding to customer (and employee) needs?  One way is to shop at a competitor but what if the competitor is just out of the question as an option?  Help the preferred organization by telling them where they can improve.  Send an email.  Contact customer service.  Fill out a comments card.  Post it to social media.  Heck, get a pen and a piece of paper and write a letter to a company’s headquarters.  Do whatever it takes to be heard.  You will feel better and hopefully your favorite Brand will perform better.

References:

Chelius, C. (2009). Technology-Adoption-Lifecycle. Retrieved December 9, 2013 from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATechnology-Adoption-Lifecycle.png

Davis, K. (2013). What Really Fosters Innovation (infographic).  Retrieved December 9, 2013 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228516

Moore, G. (2002). Crossing the Chasm. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

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