Published on: June 9, 2010The Wall Street Journal reports on how some companies - an Accenture survey puts the number at about 25 percent - see improved customer service as the best way to improve sales and market share as the US economy begins to recover. This means that companies ranging from Walgreen to Comcast to American Express are increasing the funding of service initiatives - and also are “dedicating more of their efforts to the customer segments considered most lucrative.”
Here’s how the Journal reports on some of the efforts:
Comcast execs, the story says “see a chance to woo frustrated customers from rivals through word of mouth and by creating pleasant experiences. In another Accenture survey of 5,000 consumers, 69% said they had switched at least one provider because of poor customer service in 2009. That's two percentage points higher than in 2008 and 10 points higher than 2007.
“Walgreen is trying to gain the loyalty of patients with chronic illnesses, starting with diabetes. Since January, it has trained 500 pharmacists to work closely with diabetes patients. The pharmacists set up regular 20-to-45 minute meetings with patients to help them manage their disease. Pharmacists normally meet with patients for about three to five minutes. Walgreen is betting that loyal customers with lifelong illnesses will spend more money at the pharmacy and consolidate prescriptions there.”
As for American Express, it also is “relying on customer service changes to drive growth. It's expanding a training program started last year aimed at getting call-center agents to focus less on resolving calls quickly, and more on building customer loyalty. The reasoning: more loyal customers will spend more money.”
- KC's View:
- It strikes me as fairly easy for cable companies to offer better customer service - just get the damned repairmen to show up on time, and don't make people set around all day waiting for them to show up.
The bigger issue here, though, is the notion of loyalty. I’ll repeat my long-held belief - that the best way for companies to create customer loyalty is to demonstrate to shoppers that the company is loyal to them. You can try to buy loyalty with discounts and deals, but in the end such efforts result only in temporary shifts of allegiance.
I do like one thing about this trend, though - the notion that companies need to put more of their efforts into marketing to high-value, most-frequent customers. In the supermarket industry in particular, that is something that few companies have done well, and that most companies don’t do at all. It may be one of the major reasons that supermarkets remain vulnerable to new competition and so-called alternative formats. It reflects the “lowest common denominator” approach that too many companies have to the marketplace...they look down instead of up, and deal in condescension rather than aspiration.