Monday, August 25, 2008

Recognition Strengthens Relationships

Letting Customers Know You Care

While idly channel surfing recently, I chanced upon the Dr. Phil show. He was counselling a midde-aged married couple whose relationship had, obviously, become strained over the years. The wife related that she did not feel appreciated by her spouse. She was a working mom who, by her account, bore the largest share of the day-to-day domestic responsibilities. Her husband agreed with her assessment and said he was quite aware of his wife's contributions, and he countered that, not only was he the primary breadwinner, but he, over the course of the marriage, showered his wife periodically with various gifts, travel, and fine dining to show his appreciation. Still she was not happy. He could not understand why.

Dr. Phil listened intently and then presented some sage advice. He told the husband he took his spouse for granted. He opined that a healthy relationship is based on recognition - daily recognition that your spouse is your life partner. Periodic gifts, travel, and dining are no substitutes for personal recognition. "How was your day? "Take a break. You've had a rough day. I'll tend to the dishes." or just an embrace and "Have I told you I love you lately?"

It's high time that marketers had a little relationship therapy. It's called Recognition Marketing.

Marketers, too, have taken people for granted - their customers. Marketers spend a great deal of time, money, and lip service on how important their customers are; but there is a large gap between the preaching and the practice. Marketers are aware customers are important, but do they recognize their importance in thoughts and deeds?

Put your consumer hat on for a moment. When was the last time you were greeted when you entered a store, as in, "Good afternoon. Welcome to Acme, my name is Amy. If there is anyway I can be of assistance while you are here, please let me know." ? Or how about when you made a purchase, when was the last time you heard, "Thank you for shopping with us. We hope we will see you back soon."?

In this business world of sophisticated customer databases, wouldn't it be useful to recognize return customers at the point-of-sale, as in, "Mr. Smith, thank you for your continued patronage. On behalf of Acme, thank you for your business."? Or how about periodic thank you letters to frequent customers, as in, "We sincerely appreciate your business. As a token of our appreciation, please accept this coupon for 10% off your next visit."?

The result - a strategic competitive advantage over those who seek to solicit business only on price. All other things being equal, customers will respond to those that recognize their business. Recognition marketing also has P&L benefits since it cost five time more to acquire a customer than retain one.

Recognition marketing is not a program as much as it is a disciplined business philosophy. Recognize the lifetime value of your customers, give them the recognition they demand. Give your customers a big mental hug and let them know you love them.