THE COMPANY’S TRIAL BY “CUSTOMER”

Dr. Mert TİNİK

In the consultancy projects we conducted with Turkey’s leading corporations, we observed that investments made in systems and programs without internalizing their basic philosophies in order to be able to resolve an immediate problem, caused several new material and non-material problems in the medium term. For this reason, in this first article in our series, we will present the concept of “Customer Relations Management” by treating it as a point of view of our corporate management. Therefore, we will be talking about the reflection of “being customer-oriented and behaving accordingly” on life, that is actually a massive change management decision that awaits companies.

The Most Important Question to Ask?

There lies a critical question that needs to be answered before any investment is made or any operation is initiated by companies that desire to establish a unit in order to manage their customer relations or to “listen to their clients”, or those that want to manage data through a CRM program;

“As a corporation, do we want to conduct and manage our businesses with an approach that has the client as the focal point, with each and every one of our employees, from the CEO to our newly graduate assistants?”

The answer of the gatekeepers of the corporation to this question will actually clarify several different topics right from the start, and ensure the assertion of a point of view that complies the most with the corporate culture in accordance with the decisions to be made. However, we believe that competent individuals, from within or outside of the corporation, should remind the decision makers of the major damage that can be caused to corporations by decisions made as a complimentary to the hardships of change, and attitudes aimed at matching and isolating the authority of the executive branch with his/her own knowledge with absolute righteousness. At this point as consultants, by acknowledging the cultural code and the managerial point of view of the corporation that we are providing services to, we refer to the corporations regarding the necessity of implementing the principles of competition and modern management that are well-accepted in terms of how they lead to success. In other words, this may mean putting forward the situation that corporations, which sometimes do not want to change in terms of managerial point of view of or the system, may fall into against competition in the medium term. In summary, approaches that are revealed in this topic, and so on, refer to the concept of true consultancy. We are saying that, “A true consultant is the person who identifies the corporate DNA by associating it with the competitive requirements, and makes corporate management question the most appropriate model with regards to implementation.”

When we answer “yes” to the critical question of being customer-oriented, which we have been trying to expose by looking at its effects through different frameworks, this leads to new questions that should be diligently addressed. Let’s take a look at these questions together;

  • Do you really know your target market and their purchasing behaviors?

It seems impossible that corporations that do not know their target markets sufficiently can survive in today’s ruthless conditions of competition. Market segmentation must be made by taking into consideration demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral criteria, market targeting must be conducted in accordance with this, and accurate positioning must be established in order get the highest sales feedback. At the very basis of all of these processes lies the unrivalled identification of the market and the customer. In order to act in a customer-oriented way, primarily we need to know our customers and our target market.

  • Are you ready to make the products you release evolve from our customer’s needs rather than your desires?

Of course, leaders know their institutions best and we cannot question their production knowledge. However, with the contribution of the elements of communication in today’s world, such as the Internet, mobile devices, and TV that make “rapid” consumption a habit, it is possible to overlook real needs and fail to fully satisfy expectations. To be customer-oriented also refers to fast production and the provision of products and services out of real needs.

  • Do we want to review our product development policies?

It is now time to focus all of our R&D works on product development on the needs and expectations of the customer. While in today’s world it is not possible for marketers to succeed if they do not listen to the voice of their customers and the market, it is also impossible to have products manufactured with that mentality to find buyers in the market. For successful R&D, the feedback of field and sales teams, feedback from contacts made at the points of sale, sampling works based on consumer experience, and similar assessments and understanding works have gained prominence.

  • Are we ready to sacrifice short-term profits in order to create medium-term customer value?

Up until this point, all subjects we have emphasized identify new work processes for corporations. At this point it is not hard to associate new processes with new cost items. In other words, being customer-oriented requires corporations to invest in physical system elements and human resources. For instance, when a corporation decides to manage customer data through a CRM program, they first need to purchase a system, then train its employees, transfer old data into the system, that is to take both system, and human and time costs.

  • Are you ready to keep your employee motivation high at all times in order for your customers to have a unique consumer experience?Perhaps the most important point in order to create a successful corporation that is faithfully preferred by its customers, perceived with credibility in its market, that is integrated with its customer and successful, is to create happy employees. As a consultancy company that is specialized in competency development and believes that the essence of management science is understanding humans, we will share with you the subject headings regarding keeping the motivation of your employees high throughout the process. However, we would like to remind you that before emphasizing the obstacles that you need to go though while creating a team of motivated individuals, you first need to define the feeling of a unique experience for your customers. At this point, the importance of making correct market / customer segmentation, and of analyzing consumer behaviors in terms of culture and behavior, becomes more obvious. We will talk about different aspects of motivation in our following articles. Nevertheless, we can say that many important headlines, such as hiring the right people for the right positions, managing your employees by defining their elements of motivation and knowing the needs that they bring, listening to their needs and taking actions accordingly, establishing a developing and learning organizational structure and creating a work environment that is physically appropriate are related with motivation.
  • Are you ready to get professional help in order to re-design all employee training from a customer-oriented point of view?Imprinting customer-oriented work culture into the corporate DNA, and popularizing it for its adoption by all units, is a tedious process. It brings with it an intense communication and corporate learning process. It is necessary to work with professionals during the scaling down of this new vision retrieved from the orientation training through various means for corporate employees. When executives adapt themselves to this new working model, and prioritize it in their managerial decisions, it greatly contributes to the healthy development and operation of the process.
  • Do you have any plans for how to manage complaints, product returns and negative comments?The fact that you have decided to manage your customer relations with a customer-oriented point of view is a precursor of conducting more corporate communication than before. While the relationship you will build and the communication you will conduct will allow you to transiently follow up on the customer’s feelings and thoughts, it will also expose the necessity of coming up against negative comments. In today’s world, it is not possible to ignore the comments we do not want to hear as corporations. At this point, the first thing you need to do is to understand the power of open communication, and to strictly associate our communication strategies by being customer-oriented. Ultimately, the prearranged social media strategies and alternative crisis management scenarios of the corporation may be considered as another gain. It is possible to add new questions to those we addressed and explained above, but if you generally have the answers as a corporation to the questions we asked, or if you are at least willing to find the right answers, you can then be more vocal about working towards putting the concept of being customer-oriented into practice, and managing customer relations. In our following articles, we will be talking about the actions we recommend you take while making this decision at your company.I hope this article will help.

    Mert TINIK, PhD