Looking outside your industry to keep customers inside your organization

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Linda Armstrong
Linda Armstrong

English author John le Carré, once said: “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” Sage advice for any marketer to heed. Being in personal touch with your company's customer experience is the first step. After all, with a customer's ability to judge and report opinions real-time via social media, just one bad customer experience can be relayed to what could be thousands of others in a matter of minutes.

But, an important fact to remember is that your customers are experiencing multiple interactions with a variety of other types of industries every day. Those experiences are a constant influence on your customers' expectations from your company. They are a point of comparison where you may fall short.

Many marketers today look first to their competitors to see what's new with their customer offerings. Nothing wrong with that, but that is a very limiting approach. With the amount of activity a consumer experiences in any given day, it pays to look at the influences those outside of your own industry are having on your customers. Le Carré's statement could use a little tweaking. What it probably should say today is:  “A dangerous place to view your world is from inside your own industry.”  

When your customer comes to you, they may have just bought shoes online from Zappos, a company with a 480-page culture book.  A company whose motto is: Deliver WOW through service. As Tony Hseih, the founder of Zappos has said: “We've aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. “ Is what you are offering for customer service on that same level? Will your customers be disappointed when they compare their responsiveness to yours?

Companies that deal with non-tangible products such as insurance and financial services may not particularly see the value of looking at retailers who sell actual products — either brick and mortar or on- line —but there is a wealth of retention information to be gained from looking at these industries. Retailers are part of an industry that has taken knowing the customer to the highest levels. They are the ultimate customer-centric marketers.

Many years ago, I worked for an insurance company who hired marketers from Proctor & Gamble. An odd choice you might say, but these were marketers who were seasoned at creating loyalty and maintaining it, and maniacally focused on details of the customer experience.

As a marketer, you are a consumer yourself. Look at the companies you like to deal with and see what you can emulate about them no matter what industry you are in yourself.

Linda Armstrong is EVP and practice leader at DMW Direct.

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