I read an article recently by Christine Crandell on Forbes, which made me stop dead in my tracks, it spoke about the definition of Buyers and customers. Whilst the post was essentially about social engagement of customers, it outlined how most companies believe that there is a difference between these terms, that in fact a buyer becomes a customer after the purchase decision. The article superbly pointed out that a buyer after the sale is still a buyer, in fact after the purchase they need to be treated more like a buyer because that is what they are and continue to be.
This concept feeds into some of my own ideas about Patients in our practices. For the extent of this post I am going to refer to Patients as Customers, something that I never do. But to outline the concept I think it is important. My thoughts on customers are simple,
“happy or satisfied customers are of little use to your business”
That seems like a real strange statement, no? Let me explain, the PTSD has not got me yet, it was only a little episode, the doctor said I’ll be fine. I digress, happy customers are little use because happy or satisfied customers will not necessarily talk about and refer your business. In fact a happy customer may not actually buy from you again.The customers who talk about, or refer to your business are god damned ec bleeping static customers. Ecstatic customers talk highly about you, they wax lyrically about your practice and your services and most importantly they remain loyal.
So how do you assist Patients to reach levels of ecstasy? I am sorry but that is about one of the most leading statements I have ever typed. I need to stop for a giggle. Ok back to seriousness, in order to to make this happen you have to understand the processes that ensure a customer is so impressed by your company and its services that they become evangelists for your brand.
When I organised sales strategy and its effect on customer service and customer service principles for my company I wanted to stand out from the crowd. In my market, the market is price sensitive and my competitors strategy appears to be all about discount. We also had the not insurmountable difficulty that we had no historical penetration into this market. This was compounded by the decision that increasing my discount above a certain limit, which in my market is very low, would damage the value of the brand I represent.
In order to succeed I had to design a value proposition that went beyond the norm. What I did was set out to astonish customers, provide service and query responses that amazed them. This strategy had to be deployed across the company in order that it work, everybody within our organisation had to buy in to it. Everybody had to go the extra mile in order that the customer was consistently amazed at our commitment to them. We also deployed a business development strategy giving good advice that supports growth within their business.
We designed campaign offerings not based on giving our customers more margins but on increasing their business levels over and above what they had and then we supported them through those campaigns. My catch phrase is “Your success is our success!”, it is not simply a catch phrase it is a mantra that our team try to work by. We have been quite successful, we have a lot of customers who are heavily engaged with us, they also talk about us to other prospective customers in the market. All of this while we were offering at most half of the discount that our competitors offer.
What lessons can be learnt from this, what points can you lay down?
Whilst people are price sensitive they will pay more if they feel there is true value to your relationship.
In order for this to happen, your commitment to your customer needs to be complete.
You need to consistently surprise your customers with your can do attitude and service supply.
You need to deal with their issues rapidly, consistently with little fuss.
You need to offer services that your customers need in the manner that they need them.
You need to be able to listen and offer the advice that your customer needs, not necessarily what serves your purposes.
You need to engage with your customers at all levels in the manner that they would like to be engaged.
In order for this to work every person in your organisation needs to buy into your attitude, a business is only as strong as its weakest link. Every point of contact within your company needs to maintain the same attitude and deal with your customers in the same manner as you do.
Think carefully about this strategy and ask yourself how can you deploy it within your business, what can you offer that allows a customer become amazed, how can you change your practices in order to make your customer ecstatic?
That fantastic article can be viewed here: The Gold in Social Customer Service
Please feel free to comment, I would appreciate feedback on my thoughts, go on break the ice, post a comment, first one gets a free iPad, no that’s a lie but hey! As a friend of mine recently posted
“Go ahead, everyone is doing it. All the cool kids like us. Your mom said to. Fall in line. Be part of the cool crowd”
Interesting post – I agree that Customer Services is ‘dead’ – it has become the expected, the norm the lowest expected standard. Whenever a purchase is made we expect good customer services – consumers are savvy these days – Customer Services alone is no longer a differential that allows you to stand out from the crowd. If a client comes for a service and its delivered in a timely, professional manner and it works then you have delivered the expectation, what we need to do is to enhance the ‘experience’ and deliver more than the expectation and develop the relationship between the ‘buyer’ and ourselves – so they become the screaming raving fans because everytime they interact with said organisation they receive more than the expected every time. Its tough and everyone has to buy into the delivery of truly great service otherwise its dead before you got it out there but Customer Relationship Management is the key to retention and expansion of a client base.
I agree wholeheartedly with the points raised in your comment, I would also like to expand my post later on to set out requirements to ensure delivery. Your mention of a CRM is entirely pertinent, in order to deliver on any strategy a well designed CRM system is a given. Again I would also like in the near future post on CRMs and their integration into practice management.