7 Actions for SMEs in Developing a Winning Customer Strategy
An effective and winning customer strategy will cut across the traditional, functional silos of most companies. It will form a central part of the marketing, sales, customer service and CRM functions, plus any others that come into direct contact with the most important people in any business, the customers.
In developing a customer strategy, you’ll be looking to answer some fundamental questions:
- Who are our customers? See another blog on defining the target customer persona.
- Which of their needs can we deliver against?
- What customer experience do they require?
- What capabilities do we need to deliver all of that?
Many larger corporates are already focused upon customer strategy and customer experience; SMEs need to follow suit. By taking the seven actions outlined below, SMEs in any market can develop a winning customer strategy.
The actions are broadly sequential and start with:
1. Collect as much data as you can about your customers – and use it
First of all, useful data can come from a wide variety of sources: commissioned research, general market research, your own on- and off-line customer interactions, buying behaviour, locations. It’s about devising detailed target customer personas and then using them in all activities so you know the type of customer you are after.
2. Conduct customer experience (CX) audits on a regular basis
CX Audits from an independent provider will galvanise you and your team into making the customer strategy work. Commission one at the start of the process to highlight how well you’re doing already and which gaps need plugging; then repeat the exercise every year or two to ensure you stay on track.
3. Look for long term value in your customer strategy
Lifetime customer value (LCV) has been a central tenet of CRM practice since the 1990s (see Peppers & Rogers); nowadays there are more channels of communication available but the principle is the same. Treat your customers as appreciating assets and your costs of sale go down as volumes increase.
4. Put customer strategy at the heart of your competitive advantage
According to Oracle, 86% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience, 89% have moved to a competitor because of poor service. An effective customer strategy is a proven way to delivering real competitive advantage for those that move fastest. This is about linking the customer strategy to the overall business positioning as well as those for each of your brands. Where there are disconnects, you should consider re-organising structures around the needs of customers first and foremost.
5. Seek consistency of customer experience across all channels of business
All customer touchpoints with the business should offer the same quality, look and feel so that customer experience is never compromised by choice of communication channel. In our omni-channel world, businesses must be in control of however customers wish to interact. This includes other aspects of service too, such as delivery, not just online communications.
6. Encourage and nurture brand advocates
Whether your company is the brand or if you have several brands within your portfolio, the nirvana of CX is to have your customers do the selling for you. Activity geared around rewarding loyalty and recommendation are powerful, so user group meetings/forums and social media groups all support advocacy of your brand. Don’t stop at customers, either; advocacy from suppliers, industry groups and distribution chain partners all add leverage.
7. Think ‘customer experience’ when adopting any new technology
Finally, whatever your initial motivation, any new technology additions to the business should be referenced against the customers’ experience before adoption. Some of the most successful companies continuously innovate and ensure that customer impact is always considered, especially in relation to digital and mobile technologies.