Customer, Engagement and beyond
Category : Uncategorized
“For those who understand what is a customer, no training is needed. Those who do not understand, no training is sufficient.”
Rains of Bengal is at the root of her immense fertility. This is also the season when she becomes fatal in terms of water-borne diseases. I became victim and suffered for almost a week, most likely a salmonella infection.
Before that, I happened to deliver a workshop, attended by 30+ business owners / managers / entrepreneurs on the theme of Customer Engagement. My brief presentation was followed by Sales Philosopher and Thinker Mr. Kaushik Bhattacharya who discussed in detail the theme of Customer Loyalty and Advocacy.
A summary of my reflections :
Question : Who is a customer ?
Answer : Prime Cause of your business, sometimes un-caused. If you accept this definition, then a customer is an abstraction – a cause and hence one can say that customer engagement is “continued research.”
Any research pre-supposes a starting point – a baseline and then a re-search continues. A matrix
The above matrix is deceptively simple but business of all variety, type, objectives of now or of anytime will satisfy some of the co-ordinates.
At this point, I asked : “Do you have any definition of customer from your own experience?”
One gentleman replied : “A customer is someone who always asks for discount ?”
Because we gave some discount once…..
Did he ask for it explicitly ?
No – we felt.
Because he did not show the level of interest we wish they had..
Oh, so you offered discount to amplify his interest towards your proposal although he did not explicitly mention this.
Yes, sort of…
Note something interesting happening here. A proposal (may be to a stranger or to an existing customer) is sent – waiting to trigger “interest” from them. Then, to have them interested, a bribe in the form of discount is offered. Yes, repeat – bribe. There were no explicit communication from client telling :
a) I find the proposal very interesting.
b) I wish I could afford this at the current pricing with value pack.
c) I cannot afford now but will you see whether some value / price trade-off can be done ?
A discount without taking into account the whole value pack of the service / product is offered which means – a bribe. To bye-pass the interest-counter offer- reconfiguration of the value pack – closure cycle.
Twenty years back, I used to be the junior most member of a negotiating team. I was working in a very large telecom service monopoly and the vendor was one of the largest Japanese telecom OEM of that time.
A dramatized summary
TM (Telecom Service Monopoly) Rep : (thumping on the table) : No, you must give us at least 20% discount on the total. Such a large order and more to come.
Japanese OEM : The older Japanese man, heading the Division listened to, looked sideways with his colleagues, sought permission to speak in Japanese. They spoke for 2-3 mins. He cleared his throat and said that he could not take such an unilateral decision on price as the deal is very complex.
TM : No, you must.Let us meet tomorrow again but I am telling you, without a discount, superior authorities will not allow the deal. We have very strict purchase rules and procedures.
Next day, the Japanese Team came and we all went for the Battle. 20% money we are surely going to save for our organization. Our leader was up-beat and as soon as the Japanese team said that they did agree to such a discount, I could see our leader beaming. Then, he added that he had modified the offer – nothing major and submitted the offer once again – signed and sealed and with a cover letter. It was clear, they had worked the whole day.
Since I was the junior-most fellow, was entrusted with the responsibility to verify the changes. Bosses left happily – Mission accomplished.
I took the documents ( some 500 pages each) home and started checking. Everything identical. Everything except in the Post-Commissioning Service Agreement where the previous offer had free support for 4 years including all hardware, now, the free support is for 3 years and leaves some of the peripheral hardware out of free replacement. The Cover Letter did mention that clearly.
Sign on the dotted line.
Conclusion : The Japanese Team had a business imperative to fulfill – to satisfy client’s psychological need of 20% reduction on price and they did. But they did so by unpacking the whole value chain delicately, hedged risk and offered their re-configured value chain in black and white. And with highest courtesy and cool.
I must add something that is generally not spoken in such workshops – Firing Customer or Disengagement.
In India, we all know the age-old tradition of matching horoscopes before marriage. Many of my readers in India must have their horoscopes passed through the 32-point Basic Test, followed by 128 point microscopic check as per Indian Astrological Framework. Your customer and your horoscopes also get “entanglement” as two particles in Quantum Physics are entangled.
Now, it might so happen that a few customers will be such positioned that they will influence such a way that you shall have your energy sapped, mind disturbed and peace of mind destroyed. What is to be done ?
If everything fails, Fire the customer. Yes, Dis-engage artfully.
The moment dis-engagement happens, your very vitality and sense of being broken free will invite more entanglements.
Your business is like a force-field. Some “entanglement” was restricting the field lines.
Your business will have better magnetic power to attract and retain more valuable customers.
I thank my audience for listening then and now, I thank you for reading this.