How to Succeed With Customers

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At the recent Better Management Live conference two industry pundits revealed how to create a customer strategy that stands out. Yahoo's leadership coach, Tim Sanders, who conducted extensive research into what makes businesspeople successful, revealed the four key areas that translate to what he defines as the Likeability Factor: friendliness, relevance, empathy, and realness. During his keynote Sanders explained that to succeed in business--and in life--people must be friendly and have a positive demeanor; be relevant to those with whom they seek to build a relationship; be empathetic to others' circumstances (i.e., they should "walk a mile in customers' shoes"); and always be themselves. Patrick Barwise, professor of marketing and management at London Business School, took a slightly different tack. During his presentation Barwise offered advice on how organizations can be more customer-focused. "After thirty years of TQM, customer service initiatives, and CRM, customer satisfaction levels are still mediocre," Barwise said. To boost satisfaction Barwise suggested taking three steps: 1) deliver generic category benefits better than the competition; 2) be the first with genuine product or service improvements; 3) support the product or service with great branding and advertising. "You don't have to be a pioneer," he said. "But you do have to be the best at execution." Barwise also suggested targeting innovative customers, as well as looking for customer dissatisfaction within the category as a whole, and using that as an area of opportunity. But he reminded attendees to be patient: "Brand value has to be earned over time, based on customer experience."
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