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October 1997


Some "Unconventional" Business Wisdom

Defining Customer Needs From A Customer Point Of View

BY NADJI TEHRANI


The lifetime value of your customers is not disclosed by a one-time purchase. The ultimate value of customers is in the profit made on all of their purchases over time — less the cost of acquiring and maintaining that relationship. The key word here is “relationship.” Loyalty marketing, one-to-one marketing, data mining, and a whole host of other terms, are all centered around creating a relationship with a certain kind of customer who was interested enough in your product to buy it once. The key is to solidify that relationship — to entice the customer to buy again. That is where the money is made. And that is how your business will succeed.

Delight Your Customer

Once you’ve identified your customers and offered them a superior product for a reasonable price, you need to continue to delight them. This can be done by maintaining communications that will convey a deep respect for the customer, retaining a keen sense of the appropriate Continued from page 4 market and motivating employees to produce high quality and value for them. What am I talking about here? Customer service, of course. Since a company’s sales come only from new and repeat business, and since it costs more to attract new customers than it does to retain current customers, it stands to reason that customer retention becomes more critical than customer attraction. The key to customer retention is customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer is one who:

  • Buys again,
  • Talks favorably to others about the company,
  • Pays less attention to competing brands and advertising, and
  • Buys other products from the same company.

Creating satisfied customers is the hardest part of the whole game. If you can do this right, you are well on your way to outstanding success. One way to facilitate customer satisfaction is to make it easy for the customer to complain. Not only will you find out what facet of your business may need to be doctored, but you’ll give yourself an opportunity to shine by letting your customers know you are always willing to improve.

Expose your customers to your topnotch customer service agents. Let them see how friendly and eager to help they are. Give your agents the tools and training necessary to resolve customer complaints quickly. You’ll find that customers will not only respond favorably, but they’ll probably be much more loyal than they would have been had they not had some kind of problem. Don’t see customer complaints as obstacles — view them as golden opportunities to convert one-time buyers into lifetime purchasing partners.

Attracting Your Perfect Mate
No, you haven’t strayed into the pages of Elle or Vogue. Since your product can’t be everything to everyone, be sure your message is hitting the appropriate audience. Be original in marketing and advertising your offerings. Every form of media generated by your company or its proxies should continually and eloquently emphasize why your product is the one of choice. All of your marketing efforts must demonstrate that your product: cannot be easily copied by competitors, delivers a highly valued benefit to a sufficient number of buyers, is communicable and visible to buyers, either isn’t offered by others or is offered in a more distinctive way by your company, the buyer can afford to pay for the difference, is superior to other ways to obtain the same benefit, and the company will find it profitable to introduce the difference.

I once heard a great radio advertisement, which I’d like to relate, that succinctly illustrates the principle. It said, to the best of my recollection, “In the next 60 seconds you’ll hear something that will change your business life. We suggest you open the Yellow Pages and look at your ad versus your competition’s ad. Ask yourself the $64 question: ‘Is there anything in my ad that would make me, as a prospective buyer, buy that product?’ If the answer is no, change your ad.”

Effective messages should attract attention, hold interest, arouse desire and elicit action. Does a list of product features entice anyone into taking a second look? How about a brochure with too much copy? Or an ugly direct mail piece? Or a bland Web page or one that takes too long loading? Who has the time to be curious about something that doesn’t spark interest from the get go? If you’re as busy as I am, I doubt you do.

The best ads are simple, to the point and sell the heck out of the products they’re promoting. Be bold and go against the grain — don’t offend people, but get them hooked.

Use State-Of-The-Art Technology Strategically
Technology, deployed correctly, should always be implemented for a business reason, not because it’s new and glitzy. It should be fully integrated with all your business processes and should add value to the customer interaction. If your customers are showing a desire to e-mail questions to you, you’d better figure out a way to respond quickly and efficiently. If they want to try to solve their own technical problems via a knowledge base on the Internet, put one in place, but also give them hassle-free access to a live person.

Your call centers should be fully cognizant of all these issues in order to be successful — marketing plans are worthless if they’re not being implemented by your operational people. If your internal communications structure isn’t sound, your customer communications will suffer as well. As with anything, information is key to representing your company well to the outside. Intranet knowledge bases accessible by your employees, not only in the call center, but anywhere in the company, are one way to ensure a sound internal communication system.

Technology is an enabler, something that makes life easier. Use it in your business to facilitate serving your customers, but do it on a need basis — a word processing program is of little use to our graphic design team, just as Adobe Photoshop is of little use to the editors here at the magazine. Implement what you need and what will make your employees more effective in their job function. Making them more effective will make their interactions with your company’s customers more effective, which will generate the return on investment and profits you were hoping for when you installed the equipment in the first place.

Think. Analyze. Innovate. Act. Cookie-cutter formulas for instant marketing success are available to all — commonality, so to speak. Common plans often produce equally bland results. You and your knowledge of your business coupled with thoughtful marketing programs can and will bring you success, if you make it happen.

I welcome your input. Please email me at ntehrani@tmcnet.com.

Sincerely,

Nadji Tehrani
Publisher and Editor-inChief


Announcing CTI EXPO, Featuring the Call Center Solutions Conference and Pavilion

Anyone looking at the call center industry can see that advanced technology is truly enhancing overall business productivity and customer interaction with an eye on not only improving quality of service, but also on reducing cost and protecting market share.

To reflect the growing convergence of Internet and computertelephony integration (CTI) technology in the call center, Technology Marketing Corporation has announced a new show, CTI™ EXPO. The objective of this new show is threefold: to bring the buyers and sellers of computer-telephony products and services together; to provide the most comprehensive, in-depth and non-commercial conference program; and to provide a forum to enrich one’s knowledge of the latest technologies, like voice and video over IP or PCbased PBXs. This will be done via Technology Learning Centers, gathering places in the exhibit hall where exhibitors and buyers will congregate to discuss the features and benefits of CTI products and services.

The CTI™ EXPO exhibit hall will feature vendors in such fields as: industrial computers, CTI software, development tools, call center products and services, telecommunications products and services, Internet telephony, fax and video, voice and data integration, unified messaging, conferencing, directory services and many more.

The conference program is developed by the editors of CTI™ magazine. They use the same high standards of objectivity and integrity in devising the conference program as they do in selecting editorial. Some of the sessions cover: Principles Of Telephony; Voice, Video & Data Convergence; Internet Telephony; Application Development & Programming; Reseller, Integrator & Developer Opportunities. The conference program also features a number of tracks on call center management, like: Human Resources & Management; The Synergy of CTI & The Internet In Your Call Center; and Performance Measurements For Call Center Agents.

Serious buyers need serious education. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to gain the most cutting-edge knowledge of CTI!

The Call Center Solutions Conference & Pavilion
The world’s most comprehensive and advanced call center event of the year, CTI ™ EXPO, will also feature The Call Center Solutions Conference & Pavilion, formerly known as TCCS™ , the original and innovative call center event. Recognizing that the call center and CTI technology are converging, it is only natural to include The Call Center Conference Solutions & Pavilion within the overall umbrella of CTI™ EXPO, so that you can avail yourself of the opportunity to learn about the benefits of CTI for your call center as well as other critical call center issues.

As the publisher of the industry’s number one publications, Telemarketing & Call Center Solutions ™ magazine and CTI™ magazine, Technology Marketing Corporation has accumulated vast call center knowledge during the last 16 years of industry leadership. Through CTI™ EXPO, we are proud to once again bring you a comprehensive examination of technology applications, human resources and management solutions for inbound/outbound sales, customer service and help desk call centers.

I look forward to seeing you at CTI™  EXPO Spring 1998 in Baltimore, Maryland, May 19 - 22, 1998; and in San Jose, California, December 1-4, 1998, for CTI™ EXPO Fall 1998.


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