What is the client paying for?

The business climate is changing today faster than ever. Today companies who let themselves lead by clients have a competitive advantage. In the end, the clients—not the companies’ products or services – are the only source of revenue and, implicitly, profit.

“Numbers are history. The clients are the present and future of our businesses.” – Philip Kotler. In other words, companies do not need a crystal globe to see in which direction their business is going or which are the market tendencies. It’s only necessary to listen to their customers.

Why do some companies have more success than others? Because they understood that, when buying, the client also pays for his perceptions. And the client’s perception, related to the company’s product or service, could be different from the reality. But for the client, his perception is the reality. This thing means that the administration of clients’ perceptions and the administration of reality are equally important for companies.

The perception of customers is built through the messages that they receive from the organization. What does it mean? There are some examples below:

The aspect or design of the product or service, meaning the way in which it is packaged, labeled, presented and delivered. The design can be perceived as a presentation of the relationship between cost and client. The client observes how the organization treated the dilemma between the decrease of costs and client satisfaction. If a company reduces the product presentation costs, this could be quickly noticed by the client and lead to a decrease of satisfaction. The client understands that the economy was made on his account. In the same time, an efficient design increases the trust of first-line employees, avoiding future post-sale and distribution problems.

Messages sent by sales and advertising – The most important element is credibility which, generally, is interpreted by clients as trust degree. Can they trust that the company will do what it promises? For this, it is essential that all promises made by the company or, individually, by an employee in the name of the company, are met. In the same time, availability and kindness, technical knowledge, attitude of staff, sales people, cash register officers, and intermediaries are ingredients which work in the organization’s benefit.

Post-sales services have two aspects presented below:

= a) First is the warranty, the service, spare parts, and usage training. Customer oriented companies pay attention to the accuracy of product accompanying documentation, perform market tests and have training procedures fit for the user. This behavior is appreciated by clients and ensures the beginning of a relationship based on trust.

= b) Second aspect of the way in which complaints are treated. Statistically, it is known that 15% of unhappy customers complain and only 4% of the causes that produce client dissatisfaction are reported. In the same time, the customers who file complaints are the ones who spend twice as much on that distributor in comparison to those who do not report anything. It is obvious that the clients who complain are our friends and allies when it comes to business, offering improvement opportunities free of charge. In this case, the messages to clients should sound like this: “We want to listen to complains!” “Show us all your troubles and issues!”, “If something makes you unhappy, tell us immediately!” The reviews of complaint documentations and procedures help companies convince their customers that their interests are important.

Organisational culture. The client makes the difference between the formal aspects of the culture of an organization (highlighted through mission, vision and control system declarations) and non-formal aspects (the involvement of top management, the employees in the personalized care and attention that an organization provides to its clients, the systems of recognizing proper client service) This non-formal values are the ones which count in the mind of the client and help build a perception of credibility and trust in the organization.

As a conclusion, the customer feedback is valuable information for the management of a successful organization. This information allows companies to understand the way customers regard them, their products, services, employees, operations and competitors. During a conference held at Manchester Business School, Terry Leahy, president of Tesco, said: “I learned that, if the management could shut up for a while and just listen to what customers have to say, they would write themselves the business plans instead of managers… When we stopped hunting for all the moves made by Sainsbury and started hunting our clients’ moves was the moment when we outdid Sainsbury”.

I hope that this article could inspire you to being a program to increase the quality of customer services in your own organization. Attention! The client pays, in addition to the product, for all the adjacent services.

If you wish to talk about these ideas in a face-to-face presentation, please contact me. In the same time, I care about feedback a lot, so I’m inviting you to tell me what you think on the matter. Usually, I can be contacted at:

Andreea Micu, Intensity Consulting
Tel: 0722 367 410
Email: andreea.micu@intensity.ro