Why develop a customer recognition program? When we identify and acknowledge the importance of our customers, to our customers, we create a feeling of value. Customers who feel highly regarded have a greater tendency to demonstrate loyalty to your business (loyal is defined as firm in allegiance to; faithful; demonstrating unswerving allegiance). How many of us wouldn't want customers who are that committed? This article explores an eight-step process to create a new program initiative, or to evaluate and or revise an existing program. Before you start, there are a series of questions that need to be explored.
What is your intended outcome and objectives? What is the overall scope? The answers help to define your focus.
What have you done in the past? What worked and why? What didn't work and why not? Experiential learning is the most effective place to start.
What is your business mission? Does this program align itself (does it need to)? Describe your organizational culture (how do customers and employees feel)?
Finally, begin to think about your champion. Who is passionate about this initiative? If it can't be championed (and others can't buy into the vision), your ability to implement successfully will be diminished and your efforts might be futile.
STEP #1: IDENTIFY YOUR CUSTOMERS
Who is doing business with you? Answering this question might seem daunting, so begin by trying to group customers. For example, do you have members? Are there different classes or types of membership? Do you have customers who purchase specific products, can you classify them by the type of business, or by the amount they spend annually with your business? Begin to make a list.
STEP #2: DIFFERENTIATE YOUR CUSTOMERS
Based on step #1, can you brainstorm specific needs your customers have from your business (i.e., why are they doing business with you)? Second, what does your business value from its customers? Here are a few examples: the number of referrals they bring to your business and whether or not these come to fruition, the dollar value of their business, whether they participate willingly and actively on product focus groups or regularly provide strategic feedback, the potential business they could bring to you, etc.
STEP #3: IDEA GENERATION
How are your customers motivated? Brainstorm a list of ways you believe your customers would like to be recognized. Here are some examples: a special phone number they can call without having to wait in the phone queue for the next representative, magazine subscription for a topic area of interest to them personally or professionally, a free membership, discount pricing for bulk orders, etc.
STEP #4: BEHAVIOURS
What are the behaviours you want to recognize? Here are some examples: purchasing more, less often, using your support desk less often, using your web store versus your Contact Centre, etc. Consider your ideas from both a business value and customer value perspective. This step is purely brainstorming; so don't evaluate your ideas yet.
STEP #5: DETERMINE HOW
Here is where you take the lists from steps #1-4 and put them together. For each valued behaviour, identify how you are going to recognize the customer and whether this is targeted at all customers, or a specific group of customers (work from step #1). You might have a few different ideas for each behaviour. Review your lists with the critical eye of "is this manner of recognition going to be seen as valuable from the customer's perspective and does it meet their needs?"
STEP #6: IMPLEMENT
There are a series of considerations at this step. When are you going to implement your program? Who needs to be involved and in what manner (i.e., champion, data entry, budget approval, etc.). What are we going to do to ensure success and what are we going to tell customers (or are we going to just recognize their behaviours without outlining our program in full)? How are we going to measure success, how are we going to engage all employees involved, etc.?
STEP #7: TRACK AND CAPTURE
This step progresses from questions asked and answered in step #6. Specifically, what is your plan to capture information and to track what you are doing and to whom. What are the different information sources you need to consider and are they residing as silos or are they integrated? Who is going to add data, how are you going to turn data into strategic information, and who needs access to this information? Do you require an investment of technology to implement your program?
STEP #8: EVALUATE
This is an on-going step, however at this stage you need to answer the who, what, when, how, and possibly where. Consider identifying what your return on investment is going to be as well as qualitative and quantitative measures, which may not be directly translated into dollars.
While we call this creating a "program", you may not have a start and end date. Create a culture of valuing your customers where the above process enables you to continually find and implement new ways of treating your customers differently.