BY BENARD AYIEKO
In the modern corporate world, the role of marketing is just too important to be ignored. No company, small or large has failed to align her strategy with the realities of the market that comes with marketing. Competition for products and markets has taken a competitive approach and only those companies that can swim through this tight market tides will survive.
Marketing has taken a central role in shaping the going concern of many companies by boosting sales and revenues. In fact, the survival of a company in this era of cutthroat competition for market share is hinged heavily on the company’s wise marketing efforts.
It is worth noting that marketing aids in not just establishing the relationship between customers and the companies but also maintains that relationship for purpose of business growth. Other than the marketing of brands that leads to actual buying by the customers, there is the little matter of how far can customers emotionally engage with those brands – which they are purchasing. It is this emotional connection that has thrust the concept of customer experience into the limelight throwing the future of marketing in doubt. While marketing focuses on promoting and selling products and services, customer experience goes a notch-higher and places the customer at the centre of marketing by meeting customer expectations and delivering personalized experiences. This is happening in an era where the ‘Customer is the King’ and as such, companies must ensure that every aspect of their business is modeled in a customer-centric way.
To underscore the role of customer experience in shaping the global business environment, Customer Service Week has been set aside for international celebration to mark the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers daily. Customer Service Week is marked every first week of October annually with a dedicated theme. This year, the Customer Service Week celebrations took place between 2 – 6 October under the theme “building trust” – which recognized the importance of trust in forming strong, productive and lasting relationships with customers. These celebrations brought together thousands of companies across the world representing financial, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, retailing, hospitality, communications, not-for-profit and educational organizations, as well as government agencies, and others.
Besides the “Customer is the King” aphorism, the concept of customer experience therefore puts emphasis on the maxim that the “Customer is always right” and that the “Customer is the central focus of the business”. Marketing and Customer Service practitioners agree that customer service excellence that generates delightful customer experiences is a key driver of the business while sustained service excellence is what keeps the customer retention high. It is of no use for a company to design marketing strategies to attract customers into buying their products or services without ensuring that the customers in their nest are treated to excellent services so that they can have that emotional connection with those brands so that they can feel special. By so doing, customer experience promotes marketing by word of mouth. A happy customer is a source of referral for the business and helps to repair customer dissatisfaction. Marketing gurus reckon that it takes 12 positive experiences to repair the damage caused by a dissatisfied customer. In today’s competitive business environment, even one negative experience is enough to lose a customer forever because customers are less tolerant towards poor service than ever before.
Customers are always willing to pay a premium for great customer service and an excellent experience. With such an assurance, the costs associated with marketing are greatly reduced. Marketing practitioner Mike Johnston opines that “It can cost up to 30 times more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. It pays to stay very close to your customers, to know their exact needs, today and tomorrow, and to aim to be irreplaceable as their supplier.” Investing in customer experience excellence slashes new customer acquisition marketing budgets. Therefore, happy customers help in reducing the advertising budget associated with marketing.
As the corporate scene embraces the changing demands of the modern customer, it is clear that marketing as we know it may be overtaken by customer experience as a way of brand positioning and winning customers. Brand differentiation is taking on a new shift with marketers angling unique selling points towards service excellence and the customer experience, as the ultimate seller rather than the traditional parameters. The debate has just begun.
The writer is an economist, consultant and commentator on trade and investment