June 18, 2013 | Rolph E. Anderson, Srinivasan Swaminathan and Rajiv Mehta
Sustaining a competitive advantage with new products is a frustrating game, where short-term leads often erode quickly. But creating satisfied customers helps companies nurture long-term relationships and customer loyalty.
There are six significant drivers of satisfaction in e-business: adaptability, commitment to customers, connection with other customers, product assortment, easy transactions and appealing environment.
For instance, when it comes to adaptability, a “one size fits all” approach is no longer adequate. Sales associates at Apple stores, for instance, are taught not to sell but to instead help customers solve their problems. As an Apple training manual puts it: “Your job is to understand all of your customers’ needs — some of which they may not even realize they have.” To keep the focus on finding solutions for customers, associates do not have to meet sales quotas and do not receive sales commissions.
Customers also like connecting to other customers. Smart companies cater to the more than one in four adults who rated products or services on some website in 2009, and to the 84% of U.S. shoppers who claimed that online customer evaluations had influenced their decision to purchase a product or service.
Product assortment doesn’t just mean more volume. Too many items can be confusing and cause customers to postpone or cancel purchases. Curated selection is appreciated by many shoppers. A Trader Joe’s grocery store, for instance, carries about 4,000 items, compared to a typical store that has 50,000. The smaller selection is carefully chosen to match the demographic and psychographic profiles of its customers.
Companies that want satisfied and loyal customers need to keep in mind the different drivers that affect their customers’ attitudes. For each factor, they should measure, benchmark and compare their performance with different customer groups against past performance, the company’s overall goals and the performance of major competitors.