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Closing the Gap that Lies Between You and Your Customers

Wouldn’t it be great if consumers queued up to be your customers, rather like the queues outside Apple Stores? You would have customers in the palm of your hand, clamouring to know what you were going to do next to make their lives that little bit easier and happier.

Paper chain family protected in cupped handsThis is not beyond most companies’ reach, it is a simple case of understanding how to please your customers, who in many ways, have the same expectations as yourself.

In over 30 years as client and agency insight specialist I have witnessed many market research departments and market researchers scratch their heads over economic models of consumer behaviour as predictive tools. Consumers are unpredictable and prone to impulse which creates a gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do.

Over the last decade WDG has been looking into this phenomenon, and has worked with customer experience specialists and behavioural economists and we all agree that organisations that direct their business model to achieving customer excellence are more successful at closing the gap. They achieve greater control of consumer behaviour by understanding how they can optimise the customer’s experience at each point of interaction.

By looking at your business through a different lens, for example, how customer-focused are you as an organisation? and what happens at points in the customer journey where they interact with the business? you can start to develop a program that is all about creating positive and, importantly, memorable experiences for the customer.

Shifting slightly to the left of complex rating systems and behavioural models, WDG has  developed an intuitive process that is easy to understand and implement. It is also one that the entire organisation can invest enthusiasm for and put into practice. We use CX insights and metrics to understand from the customer’s perspective the key touchpoints where company/brand and customer interface. We use the same process across each customer segment and journey map. Working with your internal teams we can develop performance targets to each significant touchpoint in the customer journey.

Customer excellence is achieved where companies have operational confidence to far exceed customer expectations at each touchpoint. In effect, treating your customer as you would want to be treated as a customer. Not only is this an income generating initiative it has positive effects for your team in terms of emotional reward and job satisfaction.

 

Creating better communities through social responsibility

If like me you network among your local business community you have probably encountered brokerage agencies that match socially responsible businesses with the voluntary sector. CSR is moving up the business agenda and a greater number of smaller businesses want to give back to their communities. How to give back in a meaningful and effective way where it has greatest impact is not always obvious hence the emergence of brokers – the ones I have met are genuinely interested in sourcing and distributing funding and manpower to support community ventures and local charities, and are themselves not-for-profit.

In areas where business has been devastated, high streets boarded up, and local charities struggling to survive, there is a greater need for helping hands. Sometimes these helping hands take the form of local businesses that have simply had enough and start to work together towards a better future for their community.

In August 2013 Burnley in Lancashire was named the most enterprising town in UK in the Enterprise Award Scheme run by Dept for Business Innovation and Skills. The idea that gained Burnley this accolade was simple: bond 100 local business and organisations to actively promote the town as a good place to work, live, visit and invest. “What is good for Burnley is good for business”. The Burnley Bond holder scheme has reinvigorated the local economy and boosted its core industries of aerospace and engineering, while creating more local jobs.

It doesn’t always take a group of businesses, or a third sector brokerage to direct investment and help on the ground where it is most needed. Coincidentally, also from Burnley, entrepreneur Dave Fishwick famously challenged the banks for failing small businesses. He formed Burnley’s Savings and Loans to meet the needs of individuals and businesses with loans and a preferable interest of 5%AER on savings. All profits (ex overheads) he has distributed to charities.

Though less high profile there are examples of towns and individuals who have their community at heart. Through co-operative enterprise communities are being rebuilt. You can probably tell that I support the idea of third sector brokerages because they are able to connect businesses of all sizes with a single mission to walk the CSR walk as well as talking the talk. It’s not simply about sponsoring events and charities. Companies are being encouraged to help with the development of environmental initiatives, sponsor business hubs where people can meet and hotdesk, provide pro bono services, mentor other businesses, and run staff volunteering schemes as just an example of the scope of what can be achieved in the name of community action and social responsibility.

It may not be the stated mission of many of the schemes but Burnley has proven that what is good for the town is good for business. Getting involved by investing funds or action in kind creates a positive impression of your business, it motivates staff and has the potential to make you the employer of choice. It is also sends a positive message to prospective clients.

Call it the Dunkirk Spirit or what you will, the length and depth of this recession has created a resolve in securing the future for business by business. Where high street banks have failed to recognise the needs of their customers the resourcefulness of the community is capable of stepping in with support.

Sadly, for communities without forward thinking individuals, there is no template for turning fortune around and for some communities responsibility is about improving the social or eco- environment, not turnover. Either way businesses must want to get involved and be committed for the long run.

 
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