July 2015
The Human Touch

Jeffrey Spear - President, Studio Spear

 
Jeff Spear

Most marketers believe sales are made by creating awareness and compelling trial. The real achievement happens when customers recognize value in your product and eagerly come back for more. It gets even better when they go out of their way to tell their friends.

 

In my book, customer retention and advocacy are the backbone of successful brands. How to find and keep these sorts of customers requires the human touch. Some of you may refer to this process as Relationship Marketing, CRM or One to One (1:1) Marketing. I call it old-fashioned Customer Service.

Please don’t confuse this with the lip service, platitudes and disingenuous offers so many companies make today. To drive this point further, how many of you have called a company with a problem/complaint/question only to hear one of those annoying answering systems? What's positively irritating is the message that starts out with something like “your business is important to us...” and ends up in a maze of automated dead-ends. If your business (and your time) was genuinely valued, the company would have representatives available and empowered to help you right away.

In the world of retailing, companies including WalMart, Staples, Williams Sonoma and Blockbuster have all introduced some form of “greeter” program. These policies, in varying ways, require employees to extend a friendly welcome and assist customers with their shopping. While this is a great concept, my experience has been that most employees have as much enthusiasm, and are as helpful, as a doormat. In fact, a well-designed welcome mat (assuming it’s a clean one) would most likely be more appealing.

It doesn’t surprise me to read headlines that describe the downfall of some of America's most well known corporate icons. While holding fast to old formulas and business practices that were established long ago, consumers have made it clear that they want something better.

In both consumer (B2C) and trade (B2B) environments, I’ve found that the best relationships happen when three basic objectives are met:

1. A need is satisfied.

2. The buy/sell exchange is a winning proposition for both parties.

3. The experience has been pleasant and memorable.

While each of these elements are important, it seems that only a few savvy organizations are able to get the third one right. Delivering good customer service doesn’t require an advanced degree in human psychology, unreasonably high wages or expensive infrastructure. All it takes is a little respect, courtesy and the understanding that the customer is a living, breathing and feeling individual.

As with any other successful business activity, planning and effective leadership are at the core. If a company has leaders who understand and demonstrate excellence in human relationships, they can lead by example. They can also hire individuals who understand, embrace and have prior experience with customer service to help set examples and provide on-the-job guidance.

Lastly, when leadership and previous experience is lacking, there are many well-respected organizations that can help you initiate or improve customer service. The only real issue is whether you truly care and are willing to make the effort.

In this day and age where life is cheap, indifference is commonplace, and selfishness is on the rise, it’s not going to be easy. I sincerely believe that businesses can be successful by celebrating core human values. I also believe concepts such as community, neighborhood and cooperation are not entirely lost.

Building your business has required unwavering attention to detail, unusually long hours, significant investments, and lots of patience. In order to preserve what you’ve worked so hard to achieve, my suggestion for a strong future is relatively simple. I recommend a little courtesy, a little compassion and a smile. In short, a human touch.


 

If the time has come to overhaul, update and re-invigorate your brand image, or you'd like to change up your marketing program, please call 866 787 8761 - ask for Jeff Spear. You can also contact Jeff via email: jeff@studiospear.com.

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