|ISSUE 3 - SUMMER 2002|
The Human Strategist: I’ll Have the Usual
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I worked my way through college waiting on tables in a variety of restaurants over the back half of my teenage years. The job itself had a certain measure of drudgery and detachment from true human discourse, but there were always certain customers that I recognized and who served to lighten my load. It usually took about three interactions before a face became familiar. The first time he or she was just another customer. The second time they looked vaguely familiar. The third time confirmed the recognition from the second encounter and put them in a new category – “regulars”. By about the fifth visit I could usually tell what they were going to order and we’d converse on topics other than their choice of condiments.
Later, while commuting to my first job out
of college, I used to take the number 11 bus – it was an odd bus route
– at the end of its run after it had dropped off all the
So let’s talk of “regulars”. Almost all service businesses have them. They are the backbone client base that marketers so idolize. A critical marketing metric is the cost of customer retention, which is usually far lower than the much more expensive one of customer acquisition. It’s a lot less expensive to keep customers than to get new ones. But when was the last time you examined all the components of the customer retention model? How much is human interaction a component of your brand value and customer experience? And, more importantly, as we move towards greater and greater impersonalization in our interactions, has your company’s strategy incorporated a true understanding of all the ways that human interaction and the development of community can enhance your customer’s delight in your product and your brand’s strength? What makes customers “regulars” and how do your strategies and systems support this?
What is Customer Service?
I think that for the most part it is the experience of the service, and the people providing the service, that brings back customers. This isn’t exactly a news flash. Marketers and customer service types have been on to this equation for a long time. However, I think that one of the ways that companies go astray is when they figure the ‘service’ to be only the technology enablement of the service – the process – and do not include the actual human touch into their plans, strategies and business models.
Recently I attended a presentation by Dan
Bane, CEO of Trader Joe’s, on how the firm’s values underlie all its strategic
decisions. If you’re not familiar
with Trader Joe’s, the national/local grocery store chain that originated