This article is part of a series of articles called 'Survival of the Quickest: Reinvent, Innovate or Die'
It’s not people that let you down, it’s your expectations that do.
Just like with human relationships, a company’s relationship with its customer require care and a lot of hard work. However the benefits are worthwhile.
As a start-up company you have the opportunity to set and convey what your customers can expect from your brand. Once set you have to put everything on the line to deliver that. A 24-hour call center shouldn’t shut down after a week because no calls were received at night.
Companies already in business can only raise the bar and not lower it. Well, you can but it will only end up hurting your brand. That too pretty fast. Imagine a company sending an email to its customer’s saying that we are shutting down our customer service department because we don’t receive any calls.
Startup or not, sticking to your commitment is the most important thing to remember when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with your customer. If your website states that the product will reach the customer in a specific time are you able to back it up? Dominos is a perfect example in India. Delivery in 30 minutes otherwise your order is free! It takes a lot of planning, training, synchronization and practice to make a commitment like that to your market. ‘Khushiyon ki Home Delivery’ has gained customer’s trust and we have responded by putting them on our speed dials. Best part of this whole deal is that they don’t penalize the driver’s if the order is reached late. Every order is a team effort and a team failure. Check out their terms and conditions
There are several methods through which you can form customer relationships. Here they are –
Personal assistance: This requires interaction with a human. Usually happens when customer wants information on the product and then assistance after the purchase. Examples include call center, email, online chat, point-of-sale service.
Dedicate personal assistance: This involves assigning a customer service representative to each customer. This as you can imagine is the deepest form of maintain relations with your customers. High net customers experience this in banks.
Self service: No direct relationship with customers. Company provides all the necessary means for customers to help themselves.
Automated service: A more sophisticated form of self-service. Usually has some built-in intelligence to recognize a customer’s profile and provide service or answers accordingly. Amazon’s book or movie recommendations based on your past and current purchase is an example.
Communities: Lately with the availability of online platforms companies have started building communities for their target markets. This involves a company becoming more transparent about their company, its products, future plans etc. Customers provide feedback, interact and grow with the brand.
Co-creation: Customers can be part of your new product or service from the very beginning. They can also add value later in the product/service life cycle by giving reviews etc. This represents the most modern type of customer relationships where customers are part of the creation process.
For our case study of healthy snacks made from local Nagpurian oranges I have decided to build customer relationships using 3 of the above methods:
Personal assistance – trained customer service representative will be available from 10:00am – 7:00pm, Monday to Saturday to assist via phone, email and online chat.
Co-creation – we plan to involve our target market by conducting focus groups at different times of the project. Example – getting the product taste right, packaging design, pricing etc.
Communities – for a startup online communities offer the cheapest and fastest way to interact with customers and their friends. We will have a dedicated team member for interaction within this online community for our brand.
Here’s my business model for this week:
About the author:
He studied at Florida International University, Miami and worked as a Manager for Deloitte Consulting. He quit his consulting job to start a health food business before returning to India. He loves the Indian outdoors and is currently planning his annual white water rafting trip to Rishikesh. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/duaakhil
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