Over the last 10 years, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has brought the attention back to the only source of sustainable profits the customer.
It is well documented that big corporations are having trouble changing from a product centered, to a customer centered business strategy.
However, small companies, who should have an easier time getting closer to their customers, are failing to seize the opportunity.
There are still service companies that cannot tell you when your next scheduled appointment is.
These businesses do not want to invest in any computer software (or in some cases simple training) could make it easier for customers.
Many small companies still act under the assumption that they are the star of the relationship.
There are home heating oil companies and auto service stations that will not schedule appointments on Saturday for working people.
You must take a day off from your job in order to use their service (which in many cases is no better than any other choice).
I am terrible at keeping business cards.
I can never remember who did what for me when.
Ten Chimney cleaning services will cold call me every spring, but the one company I really liked never kept in touch with me.
When I ask the person cold calling if they were the ones who did my chimney last year, they do not have that information.
These companies are actually paying to reacquire their own customers! They are only a few examples of businesses that do not get it.
Companies are ripe for losing customers and they do not even know it.
The term for customer defection is called "customer churn".
However, that word seems too assertive.
I like to refer to the subtle loss of customers as "customer evaporation".
In my mind, it implies a slower less noticeable process.
You do not see water evaporate.
You cannot tell exactly when it occurs, you just look up one day and it is gone!.
Not all industries face immediate disaster, but over time the erosion in customer loyalty is certain and may never even be noticed until it is too late.
The real edge is in customer relationships.
We all are consumers of products and we know what a positive buying experience is like compared to a poor one.
Many products are fast becoming commodities that are easily interchangeable.
If there is no good reason for customers to stay with a company some won't.
If they can get the exact same product/service at a similar price and service, they will try another company.
What do they have to lose? If the new company is the same as the old one, then there will be the constant movement of customers between competitors.
Businesses pick up new customers to replace the old ones.
This "reshuffling the deck" is commonplace in some markets.
However, the real danger occurs when one business gets it right.
When they listen to customers and offer a level of service or a customized product that gives them a reason to stay.
This company will not lose customers any more, and when the stray prospect notices that this business is actually offering value, they will not look to leave.
Think of a relationship where: oA business knows you oKnows what you want oThey are there when you want them oProvide support and service the way you want it oAt the price you want Sound like a fantasy? Maybe - but some organizations aregetting it right.