So we need to understand a couple of things about customers – there's their actual value, their current predictable value based on what we have seen. And then we also have to understand their potential value, and that's harder to understand. Many companies don't bother. But if I were to understand potential value; then, like some banks, I would recognize that a college student who doesn't have much income today; could, if I build a close relationship with him or her now, become much more valuable to me over the next 40 or 50 years. So understanding not just the current or actual but also the potential value of customers is important. Then we will know whether a BZ is truly a BZ customer.
What we're really looking for in this kind of a situation is two things. One is, are we being fair? Because if customers call and complain, are they justified? And if they are justified, how do we make sure that we aren't ignoring that systemic problem but instead are using the information that we are getting from the customers to solve that problem before a competitor solves it for those customers? And in any case where we see a chronic annoyance among our customers, or for that matter among our employees who have to deal with our customers, then we are probably looking at a real vulnerability in our own business model.
In addition to looking at the question, are we being fair, we need to ask, are the customers being fair? In most cases they are being fair. But in some cases they are doing things that are taking unfair advantage of the company. And if they do that, then the cost of serving them has to be borne by someone. And that someone is better customers.
We've talked before about how Filene's Basement actually sends a letter to customers who buy clothing, wear it to a special occasion and try to return it as unused, saying, "We don't want you to be our customer anymore." That's because the customer has clearly been unfair. So I think we really need to exhaust both of those questions, is the customer being unfair and are we really being unfair? Once we have answered those questions honestly and from an understanding of a customer's actual and potential value, then we can probably make the best decisions for the company and for all of the other customers.
Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.
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