The Big Picture: Acquiring And Retaining Customers By Raising The Bar

Mumbai: | Updated: Apr 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
To drive greater retention of customers and also to retain satisfied ones, customer service is now being sought to be integrated with larger change management initiatives. Says Mr Sanjeev Duggal, president, NIS Sparta, “Companies today will have to address change management by tackling the challenge of customer acquisition. This is because the task of customer acquisition is becoming a constant battle”.

Dealer Management At Maruti Mr Duggal outlines the case of one of the leading automobile companies Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) for whom some of the key learnings in change management was effectively enforced amongst its dealers. Says Mr Duggal: “When the company was operating in a high monopoly economy the very selection of dealers was based on the chunk of wealth that they had in the armoury and the political connections that the dealers wielded”.

From a stage of total monopoly to a stage where global players arrived in the car segment with size, alternatives and choice, for Maruti the key task ahead was to comprehend the value that customer-oriented channel partners could deliver in terms of service and marketshare.

Informs Mr Duggal: “Accordingly, there was a host of cultural and behavioral transformation that was needed in the way dealers operated”.

This was more so because dealers till then had seldom realised the importance of hiring quality talent with premium compensation packages. Nor, were they clued on about the objective of lending a complete sense of participation in the business initiative for the recruited manpower.

Ringing In The New At Bharti
Bharti Telecom is another case in point that Mr Duggal cites to reinforce his perspective. According to Mr Duggal, Bharti was considered to be an entrenched player in the mobile phones market. However, the need was to enhance service orientation to aid customer retention. Therefore, the company defined its service strategies and vision with an aggressive focus on customer care. “From being viewed as a telecom player the vision was to say that it was a service company delivering constant customer delight like any other hotel or airlines players”, says Mr Duggal.

In this case, Mr Duggal believes that the whole dynamics of customer service became the vision and strategy of the company. Accordingly there were training and recruitment tools that were created for the front-end personnel that could align to this vision.

There was a data dictionary that was created to interpret and apply the various significance to “service” as a terminology within the establishment. Further, compensation, hiring and skills were also evolved in sync with the vision to help create a differentiator about Bharti in the customer’s mind.

Explains Mr Duggal: “The company then set up nine projects and psychometric assessments were devised under the title of ‘my service profile’ and ’my sales profile’ for the front- end staff”. These tests according to Mr Duggal looked at evaluating the psychological match towards delivering customer service amongst the workforce.

Adding Fizz At Coke
It is a different story at Coca-Cola India. “ The training methodologies for such initiatives need to be identified through close and studied observation of the staff who need to undertake the training,” adds Mr Duggal.

Accordingly, there are customised initiatives in training that are structured to create innovative thinking in developing point-of-purchase materials and merchandising strategies. For, Mr Duggal believes that the core focus in FMCG for customer acquisition is innovative marketing. “And that’s the concept which was hammered into the minds of the Coca-Cola field staff”, reasons Mr Duggal.