BY : PRASANNA PERERA, MARKETING AND MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT, CHARTERED MARKETER, CIM, U.K. Customer satisfaction, customer delight, customer intimacy ……… the list goes on. Each term has a different emphasis, but the central core is the "customer" and the importance of the customer to marketing. There are many ways and techniques that can be adopted, to ensure customer satisfaction delight and even intimacy. The purpose of this short article is to dwell on the practical aspects of customer delight (how), rather than the theoretical aspects.

1. What do customers expect from your organization?
Irrespective of the type of industry (FMCG, Service etc.) size of organization and the scope of activities of an organization, we can generalize the " specific" expectations of customers. Customers are 'paying customer. Therefore, an organization has no right to survive or even thrive, without providing the needs of the paying customer.

(a) Customers require to be treated as "special". To feel that they are cared for in an "extra" special way.

(b) Consistency in the level of service provided, is another requirement of customers. Customers hate being afforded "variable" service levels.

(c) Customers are conscious of privacy and it pays to respect this need. It is often something customers really value.

(d) Continuous value in the products and services offered, is a modern day customer requirement. In fact, customers are demanding that 'value be recreated' by marketers on a continuous basis.

(e) In many instances customers do not really know or are not certain, about what they really need. In such circumstances, marketers are expected to clarify as well as satisfy the needs.

(f) A customer need often not recognized is feedback. Customers should and require a practical mechanism to provide feedback on the 'exchange encounter'. Feedback is critical to the marketer as well.

(g) Arising from (point f), customers need acknowledgement and action as far as their feedback is concerned. Nothing irritates a customer more than silence from a marketer! Silence is not golden in this instance.

(h) Customers expect courteous and attentive treatment from marketers. After all they deserve it - they are nothing but the paying customer, that provides the wages for those who serve them.

(i) Customers expect to be dealt first and the circumstance second. In other words, emotional aspects should be given priority over practical aspects.

2. Practical insights on providing customer delight
Theory is one thing, application of same, is something altogether different. There are many theories on how to understand customers, care for customers, maintain relationships with customers etc. However the practical reality is quite different. Let me share with you, some personal insights, on delighting customers and exceeding their expectations.

(a) Make a sincere and concerted effort to understand the needs of customers. This is easier said than done. Empathy is the essential ingredient. (Get into the customers shoes often).

(b) Be committed to serving customers, to the best of your ability. "Nothing but the best" is the motto, you should live by. No matter what time of the day, day of the week, service to the customer comes above all else.

(c) Truly and passionately, love your customers. Treat them as partners and not annoyances of your business. To be passionate about customers is not easy. As in the case of any relationship, you will face the upside and downside.

(d) Respond to customer enquiries, queries and proposals, speedily. Speed is key for two reasons, emotional and functional. Emotionally a customer is happy to receive a quick response. Functionally a performance aspect is involved.

(e) Try and cultivate a true friendship with your customers. In order to develop a genuine friendship, be open to suggestions, criticisms and comments. Honesty and openness are key ingredients, in cultivating lasting friendships.

(f) Innovate your business processes continuously, in order to deliver superior value to customers. As stated earlier, it is the ability to 'add' value that results in customer satisfaction and loyalty. One method of innovating is through the value chain. The value chain will highlight your capabilities, competencies and assets. Based on the analysis, be bold enough to innovate your primary business processes in order to delight customers.

(g) Learn the art of saying 'No' to a customer in a manner that retains the relationship that has been built. It is not always possible to say 'yes' to customers in an objective manner.

(h) Pay regular visits to your customer's offices factories etc. This helps you to understand the true 'chemistry' and culture of your customer or customer organization. Further, it provides opportunities for both formal and informal interactions.

(i) Make your customers, your best ambassadors. Let your customers speak for you. This is the most powerful endorsement and it is important to strive towards same.

(j) Respect your customers wishes, right for privacy etc. After all, you like to be treated with respect and dignity. Then why not your customers?

3. The importance of 'internal marketing' towards customer satisfaction and delight

Marketing starts at home! In order to satisfy and delight external customers, employees (internal customers) must have the right orientation, training and motivation. In addition to employees in marketing, other functional employees too need to have a 'customer focus', in carrying out their jobs.

Internal marketing was originally thought to be of importance in service marketing and for contact employees. However, the concept has now been extended to cover all types of marketing and non-contact employees as well. This clearly demonstrates the practical relevance of the concept, towards marketing effectiveness.

In this article, I referred to certain practical insights in delighting customers. You cannot expect a demotivated, untrained employees, to strive to provide the level of service excellence required to 'delight' customers. A pre-requisite is that the employee is delighted to work for his /her organization. This is only possible if the right organisational culture is prevalent, where employees are continuously motivated, trained and valued. As marketing guru Philip Kotler states, "you must hire the right people, train and motivate them, in order to delight customers.

4. Conclusion

In this short article, I have attempted to share some experiences, in terms of the practical aspects of customer delight and even intimacy. (Customer intimacy). An important point to noteis that you must respect the privacy of the customer, as in certain instances this could be overlooked, in the pursuit of customer satisfaction. Customers are the life blood of any business, and need to be provided the "central focus" of operations.

"Up to 90% of dissatisfied customers are lost for ever"

"What we need are delighted customers. Satisfied customers just aren't good enough"

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