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Intelligence Briefings: Close to the Customer - Additional Information

Intelligence Briefings: Close to the Customer - Additional Information
Published by Policy Publications in association with Surrey European Management School, University of Surrey and IBM Global Services, Consulting Group

Because there is nothing so important as delighting the customer

Customer management ought to be at the top of the agenda for every company planning a bright future in the twenty-first century.

Yet managers at the sharp-end are faced by a daunting list of urgent challenges. How to find and retain high-value customers. How to improve customer satisfaction levels. How to handle complaints and compliments. How to keep profitable customers loyal. How to build effective customer relationships. How to differentiate between "good" and "bad" customers. The list goes on and on...

So just how can you keep your company at the leading edge of customer management when so much is happening so fast? Previously, you would have to scan dozens of newspapers and magazines to keep up-to-date with scores of developments in techniques and technologies.

Now there is Close to the Customer.

Close to the Customer is a new series of management briefings that helps you access leading-edge thinking about customer management issues. The mission of the series is to show how today's company can harness new management ideas and technologies to build closer links with customers, increase market-share and enhance profitability.

Each Close to the Customer briefing targets a specific hot topic. It presents the results of exclusive research by a team of global specialists in a concise easy-to-read briefing format. Each briefing is aimed at the needs of busy managers who need to keep abreast of new thinking in key marketing and customer management issues.

Critically, Close to the Customer is strong on actionable information. In each briefing, you find a clear overview of the most up-to-date management thinking in a given area. You discover new management techniques and methodologies. And you tap into hard practical experience that will help you shape your own customer strategies with more confidence.

Issue by issue, Close to the Customer builds into an unrivalled portfolio of ideas and information about customer management. The briefings will save you hours of time researching key customer issues. Indeed, they contain information simply not available anywhere else.

Close to the Customer is a cost-effective way to build knowledge and expertise in the most critical issue facing every business. Keeping customers satisfied.

  1. Analyse key issues
    Close to the Customer briefings provide analytical tools to help you find answers to key questions in your own company.
  2. Access practical help
    Close to the Customer briefings provide practical help designed to guide you to the right decisions for your company.
  3. Study best practice
    Close to the Customer briefings show how leading edge companies manage customer service issues... as well as some of the problems to avoid.
  4. If you don't get close to your customers... somebody else will
    Practical advice... real-life case studies... best practice guidelines... world-class solutions: all in the 22 Close to the Customer briefings

Close to the Customer hits the headline issues on your mind...

Too many managers who draw up their companies' complaints policy have never faced an irate customer in their lives, a new study based on research in more than 50 major companies discovered.

As a result, front-line staff often have to use complaint procedures that fail to satisfy customers, says the study by Professor Merlin Stone.

Companies need to replace their "top-down" complaints procedures with "relationship marketing" that emphasises customer feedback right up to the board, Professor Stone says in Managing Complaints and Compliments.

"Not enough senior managers have sat at the supermarket checkout, answered calls on the customer help-line or been at the sharp-end as a customer returned a faulty product," says Professor Stone.

He argues that too many senior managers rely on sample surveys and occasional reports for their information about complaint handling. But these fail to give the rich understanding that a direct flow of information from customers provides.

Customers' needs are "out of line" with what older marketing managers expect in many companies, says a new management briefing.

"Time is in danger of passing some older managers and their companies by," says Professor Merlin Stone who led the team that researched and wrote Relationship Marketing Strategy. The briefing is based on in-depth interviews with more than 50 companies about their plans for managing customers.

As an example of an out-of-date executive, Professor Stone quotes the old-style branch bank manager who still looks on the customer as a "supplicant". Professor Stone warns: "Today, customers think in terms of the 'bank as servant'. No wonder, then, that so many attempts to tell customers what products they ought to buy hit the rocks."

He says examples of managers "out of line" with customer needs can also be found in retailing, utilities, manufacturing and other industries.

BhS's Choice, Homebase's Spend & Save and Tesco's Clubcard have been named as the "most successful" high-street customer loyalty schemes in a new management briefing, Managing Retail Customers.

Executive editor Professor Merlin Stone says a successful loyalty scheme must "increase volume, traffic, average transaction value and frequency of visits".

BhS's Choice, he says, uses a "high level of automation to streamline and simplify the customer interface and has helped the store chain survive through a period of intense competition".

Homebase's Spend & Save "provides a simple customer interface and has clearly helped take the store into a leadership position" in the DIY market.

Many customer care programmes fail because the people running them never bothered to find out what their customers wanted, a new research project argues.

The worldwide research among more than 100 companies, led by Professor Merlin Stone, uncovered a mismatch between service delivery and customer desires.

Typical was the power company that worked hard to reduce the length of power cuts when what its customers wanted was a reduction in their number.

Similarly, a global hotel chain set out to win new customers from among business travellers with a "defect free stay" promise. Yet it failed to change any of its management processes to deliver on the promise.

Big name companies are falling flat on their faces when they try to market their products and services over the telephone or the Internet, a new management briefing says.

Transparent Marketing: the implementation says companies will fail if they try to implement advanced techology-driven marketing without getting the basics right first.

The briefing, by Merlin Stone describes three horror stories to illustrate what goes wrong when companies don't transfer their expertise at selling in one medium to another.

In one case, an insurance company that moved into telephone selling offered to take a customer's policy renewal instructions over the phone. Instead of sending renewal documents, the insurer removed the customer of 19 years standing from its computer database.

Stone says: "These companies failed to develop new end-to-end processes. They took short-cuts in training telephone agents and customer service representatives.

"They failed to appreciate the real need to offer improved integrity of service processes where face-to-face contact or the more secure audit trail of correspondence-based processes have disappeared.

Data mining -- the marketing technique for extracting customer information from databases -- too often fails because managers don't commit the necessary time, resources or intellect, a new management briefing finds.

Yet Professor Merlin Stone who led the team of authors of Effective Data Mining says: "Gains achieved from data warehousing and mining projects increase the time available to test hypotheses that sometimes trigger marketing breakthroughs."

Data mining is becoming more important, the briefing says, because competitive pressures force companies to understand more about their customers. Other companies want to mine the huge amounts of data created by transaction systems, such as point-of-sale systems in supermarkets.

Choosing between "good" and "bad" customers will become increasingly important to companies concerned about long-term profitability, a new briefing in the Close to the Customer series says.

Building customer-focused data says the issue is especially important to credit industries, businesses that supply products or services on credit terms, and products where failure or misuse can cause significant damage to customers. The briefing sets out a range of other industries which should be concerned about the issue.

The briefing, by Merlin Stone sets out 13 key factors that may be important when defining "good" or "bad" customers. One factor is whether customers provide good net value -- whether the revenue from them yields a profit after costs of servicing their needs.