February Issue 2011

By | Business | Published 13 years ago

Nearly every progressive company is focused on customer centricity. A customer centric company is one that is operated from its customers’ perspective. As a result, real improvements to its products and/or services are sought on a quarterly basis. And it seems that with the emergence of an empowered consumer in the digital age, nearly all companies need to adopt this proactive stance just to survive. As such, this strategy can mean the difference between acquiring new customers and fighting to preserve existing relationships.

While there are considerable elements that make or break customer centricity, most marketers would agree on two critical factors that completely shift the direction in which a brand moves: understanding customer expectations and perfecting customer experiences. These factors are essential to sustainable performance in the long run.

Understanding your diverse set of customers entails careful study and precision. The goal is to hone in on the groups with the highest percentage dominance and determine their specific needs and preferences — and, of course, to then provide the relevant value-added services for them.

Another point to keep in mind is the decline of loyalty within customer groups due to the inconsistency between what marketing portrays in a product and what it delivers after the customer has purchased it. The simple advice to companies truly eager to make good on the promise conveyed in their campaigns is to perfect the product first, and then focus on consistency.

Customer Expectations

We often hear about demographic and geographic segmentation. But what we don’t hear about is the sub-segments within those groups, also known as niches. Successfully reaching new buyer segments is a struggle. At some point or another, all companies scratch their heads over how to please each level of an increasingly complex customer base.

FivebyFive Communications is widely recognised as a complete events-solution entity that works across a wide range of corporate and public events. “We can design and realise any of our clients vision or ideas,” says the company’s chief marketing officer, Khurram Abbas, “and deliver them to the target LSM (lifestyle measurement) or audience in a meaningful and professional manner. The sole driver of our perfection is the need to enter the mind of the common man and see what pleases him or her, before us.”

In many countries outside Pakistan and India, especially in North America and Europe, the consumer population is aging rapidly while an entirely new generation raised in a high-tech world is coming of age. This means there is a subconscious blending of buyer values and behaviours across geographic regions. Helium is a business process outsourcing (BPO) agency in Pakistan with services ranging from brand activations and promotions to event management and warranty management. “It’s imperative to design an activation that coincides with the exact message the client wants communicated,” says creative planner Rumaisa Mughal, while adding, “Even more so, to bring in our own insights, via experience, into the playing field for added value.”

Both local and foreign companies are looking into the enormous growth potential that exists, as studies suggest that by 2025 mature markets will saturate while the emerging BRIC and lower-tier economies will level the playing field. Standard Chartered is the largest and fastest growing international bank in Pakistan. The Bank has been operating in Pakistan since 1863 when it first established its operations in Karachi. “In this age when there are so many options to choose from, it’s vital for any business to have the customers at the heart of every decision,” says Taha Ataullah, a SCB management trainee. “Satisfying your customers won’t do the trick… delighting them will make you the winner.”

Unfortunately in Pakistan, a majority of the consumer market resides in hard to reach locations and will regard foreign brands with suspicion and uncertainty (due to the common behaviour of simply doing/buying what parents did). This means that if foreign brands want to get to the level of customer insight that local category players have, they need to find new insights into their distinct behaviours and needs. And on top of this is the whole other struggle of reaching and winning new customers over.

Customer Experiences

If you think the global consumer population is complex, wait till your hear about the bar of their expectations. Before committing time and money towards any product or service, today’s highly educated and high-income consumer expects tremendous value for money.

Giving Life is a new entrant in the market of women’s maternity magazines. Already on its fourth issue, the publication recognises the importance of the father during the mother’s pregnancy and in parenthood in general. With every issue, it tries to give fathers the attention they deserve. “Giving Life is all about the rarest and the most special moments you have with your family,” says editor Mehr Azeem. “We not only talk about the miraculous phenomena of motherhood but also the magic behind becoming a father.”

Regardless of your desired target group, B2B and B2C buyers of today will create two categories to classify their purchasing choices, those with a distinct feel and those that are generic. Here, your brand positioning can play a role, or your brand equity or even the excellence of the product/service itself. “We celebrate the instinct called parenthood which leads people to act in ways that can be categorised from the most heart warming to the most utterly bizarre,” says Mehr.

Often a poor customer experience is the defining reason for switching brands — this is becoming ever more evident as the cost of switching vendors continues to drop. It is a well-known fact that acquiring new customers is more expensive than retaining existing ones, which is why it is imperative that you are able to place your brand in a distinct category. This is, no doubt, a challenge to attain and even more so to maintain.

PakMediaBlog is a reputed media and advertising site, started by digital consultant Sarosh Waiz. Its unique selling proposition is the nature of its topics and its commitment towards unbiased reporting, a combination that helps it attract over 25,000 unique visitors per month. “Making a blog and managing it can also help in generating revenue,” says founder Sarosh, “but it’s not as easy as it sounds because a blogger needs to be active and should know the basics of consumer behaviour.”

Today, even the strongest corporate brands are vulnerable. Customers now view overall service quality (weighed against their own expectations) as the make or break factor between staying with a brand and switching to a competitor. “As a blogger,” continues Sarosh, “you need to understand the demand for the topic that you are writing for through keyword tools, be able to bring your audience back, and then you also need to write constantly in order to stay connected to your audience to increase the readability of your blog. The more audience you get, the more revenue generation avenues open up through contextual advertising and selling ad space.”

Customer centricity is a lot for any business to take on — and requires constant monitoring, research and change. Undoubtedly, it is a balancing act between continuous improvement in brand communication and continuous improvement in product development.