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Customer Captivation: beyond Customer Satisfaction


We have been conditioned to provide excellent customer satisfaction. Since the 1980’s “In Search of Excellence” and customer focus concepts have driven all businesses to understand what most SMEs intuitively knew: that looking after your customers properly pays dividends.

Following on from delivering customer satisfaction was the next level: we must “surprise and delight” our customers. This led many companies to provide frivolous give-aways and gimmicks rather than providing exemplary products, service and support.
We now know that delivering customer satisfaction has moved to the concept of managed customer loyalty and generating advocates for our companies and the products and services we offer. But even this is not enough.

Technology and changing social attitudes on many different subjects (from environmental impact to recycling, from fair trade to low carbon footprint, and from call centres to personal relationships), are driving rapidly changing customer needs and market fragmentation. The era of mass production has given way to mass customisation and niche targeting. Customers not only demand more, there is a wider range of alternatives for them to choose from, each element of which provides a specific blend of benefits.

The key in the future is to define clearly the specific market sub segment where your best customers reside and market directly to them: delivering targeted and leading edge solutions that do more than surprise and delight; they captivate. Captivated customers provide a massive opportunity to secure incremental margin and continually develop and refine your offers to their needs just as they become aware of them.

But to be truly effective in the new economy, your products and services need to retain the core values and principles that attracted customers to you in the first place: there needs to be a clear sense of authenticity in what you offer and how you offer it. Authenticity and substance are core elements in delivering captivated customer value in the new economy.
For example in the legal profession, lawyers and solicitors face a huge challenge as the whole sector increasingly moves from “dictated” hourly rates to “project costs” and in some cases success fees. Their business model is changing: many have to recognise that they are businessmen who happen to sell legal services rather than lawyers who use commerce as necessary evil.

There is no point in surprising and delighting customers according to the old world: the new economy increasingly values relationships, speed, accuracy and bespoke solutions that minimise waste in all its guises. We are moving on from “it does exactly what it says on the tin”, to “this .... does exactly what you actually need, what you perceive you need and what you will need”. This future-proofing generates captivated customers. It goes way beyond frivolous gifts that provide dubious surprise and delight. Future proofing assumes that the company ought to behave as a guardian of their customers’ real and latent needs. It requires successful companies to recognise that it is their customers who actually “own” their brands, and that companies are therefore custodians of development in line with and ahead of current customer needs. (And if you don’t believe this then just look what social media and blogs are doing to company/customer communications).

This provides a highly lucrative opportunity for SMEs. Our focus, speed and tenacity can develop new sub segments ahead of large companies, the world increasingly values speed boats not super tankers, but only if we offer authentic, relevant, and innovative products and services.

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