Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005
The purpose of business is to create and retain a customer.
Much has been written about customer orientation, customer relationship management (CRM), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) metrics, Customer Centric organization models, customer retention, customer care…add any high sounding word with ‘customer’ preceding or succeeding that word and you have a new model, a new theory. Headline hitting books, celebrity author seminars and training till another theory comes along.
And we see the poor customer is still the most dissatisfied lot (that includes all of us specialists too, as customers).
What a manufacturer or service provider often thinks as a market or value proposition, customers respond in a diametrically different fashion. Why does it happen?
While business thinks in terms of products and derived values, customer is looking at satisfaction. The key question is whether all the strategy, product features, add ons and value creation lead to ultimate customer satisfaction.
Now this may seem a little contradictory. To illustrate it better let’s take the example of Cell phone services. Companies are rolling out a new product every fortnight offering more value, in their perspective.
Then the point is why does the customer keep switching over to different service providers and products or packages so often, if the products are offering value.
The key here is more value propositions are being rolled out without looking at the very basic. Whether the value proposed gives satisfaction to the customers. If not it is not valuable. The customer is buying satisfaction. Highest value is derived when the customer is fully satisfied with his purchase.
Some common myths in Value Creation
Myth # 1 More is often considered value
Buy one get one free schemes are rolled out. There is of course an instant sales push. However at the end of the scheme the customer feels that he had all along been paying 100% more for the products and perceives that very product as costly once the scheme is withdrawn. May switch to another product at the same price. Conclusion: Dissatisfaction leads to value erosion
Myth # 2 Price is value
Many business considers lower price as offering more value. More often than not lowest price products end up as the second best with a higher priced product with similar product attributes leading the market. The simple reason is the higher price product may be offering a higher satisfaction due to perceived values and imagery. Car markets are a prime example of this syndrome.
Myth # 3 More Features or add ons are value
Businesses load a product or service with more features thus offering a higher value. While this may be attractive, if the features are not backed by adequate supports the satisfaction may be less and value is reduced. We encounter this everyday. A customer buys a product with many features but not demonstrated properly or may not be serviced properly. Enquiries may not be handled effectively. Airlines offering add ons like free overnite accomodation are still not favored if the services, like enquiry handling, reservations, and time schedules are poor. Cell phones companies may be offering plenty of add ons like national roaming or free incoming calls etc. However if the billing is poor and billing enquiries are not addressed properly the customer is dissatisfied and leaves the service for another provider.
Myth # 4 Products are competing with similar products
This is often true in the leisure industry. A movie theatre may not be competing with another movie theatre. If the customer is not satisfied with a theatre or movie he may look at options to other entertainment sources, for instance an amusement park. We may call them discretionary time products. Highest satisfaction levels are very important in this type of business.
These are some of the examples of how businesses can go totally wrong in assessing value. While it is all good to talk of value creation some thought must go into the major ingredient in value that is the customer satisfaction.
And are business really serious about customer retention. As even a novice to business knows it is far cheaper to service and retain existing customers. The cost of acquiring new customer is very high.
Now how many business have consumer satisfaction index to monitor this prime factor in customer value creation
About the Author
R.G. Srinivasan is founder of Born to Win Forum. He is a certified trainer and 0nline marketing promotions consultant. Check out his webpages at (http://venturelinks.tripod.com)