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Customer Focused Interactions

Introduction

The success or failure of the enterprise depends largely on its interactions with the customers. The interactions with the customers determine the kind of enterprise which will be operated, the type of policies and strategy to be formulated to serve as guidelines; provides the organization market for its products; provides the enterprise with the necessary financial resources; and determines the branding of the company products. Therefore an organization’s reputation, success, and continued existence are largely dependent on the relationship with customers. However, it is hard for most organizations to measure and quantify this to the bottom line and so people rarely acknowledge the value of customer interactions. With increased communication and the advent of Internet technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny the value of good customer relations argues Anderson (1992).

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According to Ryan and Martinson (1983), customer interactions create corporate reputation which is a new face of corporate public relations. This means that no corporate will succeed if they abandon customer relationships and interaction as their central platform at a time when relationships and client-facing roles are the ones that receive more visibility and more acknowledgments. Customer relationships and interactions depend on standardized metrics such as brand equity, communications with the customers, and use of technology (Gross et al,1998).

Literature

Communications as customer interaction and relations approach

An organization has to develop an effective communication approach that will make products acceptable and successful. This is to ensure a better understanding of the organization’s activities by the general public and the target groups. There is a need to establish an effective means of passing the information to the customers, the communication approach that should be used should be based on limiting the disadvantages that may arise due to poor communication. There is a need to consider a company’s objectives especially what one wants the customers to remember adds Andrew C. Gross et al (1998).

According to Michaelson (1999), the communication approach of a company should consider the type of audience they want to attract, an example is the use of street fairs this therefore means that company has to conduct a study on the kind of target market that are more likely to benefit from such kind of product. Proper communication demands that individuals consider credibility of the information that is being passed across this should be done in reference to the organizational environment of a company whether it is centralized or decentralized as each of them will have communication implications to the audience(Gross et al,1998).

The communication mechanism should be made on the basis of motivating the various classes of recipients of the information. Communication channel should be based on the need to have a permanent record of the information especially among the target groups. There is need for a company to ensure that the information that they pass to the target market assumes some form of permanency in the environment, this is through ensuring that the information is on written form argues Rosen (1998).

According to Kotler (1972) in designing a customer interactions and relations strategy an organization need to incorporate the diversities that come up as a result of the differences in the population who are recipient of information. Thus the information that is passed to the public should apply to the specific situations in the environment. In appreciation of this the organization should appreciate diversity in the kinds of people they hire for the performance of their duties. This will send out a signal to the outside community on the multicultural nature of the individuals’.This is an important public relations exercise (Wolf, and Copulsky,1990).

Ethical considerations on customer interaction

When considering the theory of ethics and consumerism on the application to buyer behavior, the types of buying behavior which include:

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Complex buying behavior: This whereby the consumer go through complex buying behaviors when the consumers are highly involved in a purchase and are aware of existing and differences with other brands. This is especially applied when the purchase is expensive, bought in frequently, risky and highly self-expressive. The consumer does not know much about the product category and has much to learn, for example purchasing a computer. The buyer will pass though a cognitive learning process characterized by first developing beliefs about the product, then attitudes, then making thoughtful purchase choice. The marketer of a high-involvement product must first understand the information gathering and evaluation behavior of high-involvement consumer. The marketer needs to differentiate the features of his or her brand, through either print media and long copy to describe the brands benefits, so as the consumer is more aware of what he or she is purchasing i.e. Does it have an after-sale service e.g. warranty, free check-up for electronics, vehicles, machines writes Armstrong and Kotler (2007).

Dissonance-reducing buying behavior: This is whereby the consumer is highly involved in a purchase, but there is little availability of other brands and the difference is little. There is involvement because the purchase is expensive, infrequent and risky. Hence, the buyer will shop around and learn what is available, but will buy fairly quickly because brand difference is not pronounced. The buyer may respond primarily to a good price or convenience of purchasing at that time and place, for example purchasing carpeting hence the buyer will consider quite a deal before purchasing it because carpets are expensive and gives a sense of identification. After the purchase, the consumer might experience post purchase dissonance because of either noticing certain disquieting features of the carpets or hearing favorable things about other carpets writes Jain ( 2000).

According to Jain (2000) for the marketers, communication is very important to help the consumer feel good about his/her choice about the purchase, hence the consumer learns feels that he/she purchased a good deal and not knocked- off. The principles include the following;- Impartiality, caring for all regardless of the side to which they belong, Neutrality and Universality adds ICMR (2004). Most ethical issues in business organization are dealt in terms of existing policies than specific codes conclude Krajewski andRitzman ( 2000).

Impact of Technology and Consumer Interactions

According to ICMR (2004) with the coming of the new millennium, new and more challenging technologies had been presented to us. Different forms of communications such as Internet, mobile phones and SMS, Internet chat or MIRCs, and e-groups penetrated majority of the countries around the world. Communication through computer – generated networks became very visible. This enables any individual to talk with someone you cannot see in a face-to-face basis; to buy something and have it delivered without having to go out of your home, to research for any information with just one click on the Internet, or to meet new friends. Moreover, technologies have also penetrated almost, if not, all sectors of the society wrote Donald (1995)

According to Goldberg (1998) through the use of computers e-commerce has emerged. Most companies e-commerce in promoting the sales of their products. Through e-commerce it is easy for one to access the global market and make many sales. Through use of e-commerce a customer can be able to select from a wide variety of products the specific product. He is looking for without his physical appearance. This saves time and money. It also ensures customer satisfaction because the product he has chosen will be delivered to him adds ICFAI Center for Management Research (2005).

Many costs are also incurred when one depends on computers as the main means of communication. Costs of training employees are very high. Another problem associated with the use of computers is website sickness and customer loyalty. Some types of business are facing very stiff competition. They are competing with some well established businesses. In some cases, it becomes difficult for customers to be accessing a particular website. Also creating customers loyalty is also difficult ads Biz/ed ( 2002).

By relying on computers a lot of time is also taken in the delivery of physical products. In the delivery of physical products time is taken and it costs money. Another shortcoming that arises due to depending on computer screen as the means of communication is that physical product, supplier and delivery uncertainty. It is difficult to know clearly whether the product really exists. Another negative side effect of relying on computers for communication is that limited and selected sensory information exist. Some senses are not felt. You can see a product at the computer screen but you cannot touch it or feel its weight (Wolf, and Copulsky,1990).

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By use of computer screens as a means of communication some difficulties arise on returning goods. Is the buyer really going to get back his money becomes the greater worry. Or will the products return to owner. According to Verma (2001) due to use of computer screens as the main means of communication privacy, security, payment details, identify, identity and contrast issues a rise by the use computer screen as the main means of communication private and ones security issues become exposed. There is also lack of a proper business model when one relies on computers as the main means of communication. Due to the slow navigation of internet using computers as the main means of communication becomes very difficult(Rosen, 1998).

Also it becomes difficult when one relies on a computer as the main means of communication to come up with anniversary accepted standard for quality. Another issue that arises due to the use of computers as the main communication channel is that its components are still evolving. Changes and improvements occur regularly to computers due to research and modern technology. It is also becoming difficult to rely on computers as the main means of communication because of poor accessibility to internet, internet been unstable, its expensive and also insufficient in particular areas. Due to these shortcomings it viewed that it is dangerous to rely on computer screens as the main means of communication (Gross et al,1998).

In view of the world’s trend, majority of the consumers, travelers and holiday makers are relying on the internet information which can be available anywhere because of wireless broadband connections which has made internet connections easier.

A marketing information system is a system that consists of people, procedures and methods to get information, analyze the information, evaluate and distribute this information to marketers to make good decisions out of it. It is the proper use of marketing research. It is vital because it assists a company to know what it needs I terms of information and how it will use the information to come up with a good decision in the shortest time possible. It is done by the marketing research team of the company. A market information system includes the sales information systems. These are reports that are made from the up to date sales of a company from the customer and sales representatives. It also includes the marketing intelligence system which is the procedures and sources that are used in the company to obtain information about marketing progress in the environment where they operate ( Wolf, and Copulsky,1990).

The marketing intelligence system also includes the marketing research process which is the designing, analyzing and collection and reporting of data findings to be sued in the company for marketing (Rosen, 1998).

Crisis management plan and customer interactions

There are many ways to handle different types of situations involving different types of conflict with the customers. Conflicts must be dealt with in a swift manner, allowing for a short period to let the parties cool off, if necessary. When a conflict arises, one should be able to objectively analyze one’s own arguments and views, gather facts and mentally rehearse how a conversation with the other party would go. One is to avoid it, when it is clear that the conflict is not worth resolving. Another is to accommodate any argument or conditions set forth by the other person, just to settle the conflict. This is done even when one does not necessarily agree with the other person, and will result in one being discontented in the long run. The next alternative is reaching a compromise, or finding a solution that is satisfying to both parties, rather than only one giving in. If one of the parties has a higher position, or has greater authority, and he uses that authority or position to quell the conflict, that method is called authoritarian. The last method, collaboration, is one where both agrees the presence of a conflict, and discusses the causes and solutions to that conflict. Collaboration often entails greater inputs from both parties, resulting in a higher acceptance and conformity to the solution agreed on (Goldberg, 1998)

Conflict is but a natural component of every interpersonal relationship. It can, however, be managed effectively by learning proper conflict management techniques. There is no single perfect formula that can be used for all situations, because the appropriateness of the solutions relies on the details and differences in each incident of conflict. That is why, more than merely creating a culture that avoids conflicts, and denying its existence, more and more organizations and individuals will be benefitted by creating a conflict-competence culture—one that not only recognizes conflict as soon as it happens, but also involves people who knows what to do and how to handle it effectively (Goldberg, 1998)

Customer behavior and customer interactions

Relationships are the main asset of the enterprise – not the machines that make the products, the products themselves, or even the intellectual capital inherent in people, patents or know-how, important though all these might be (Wolf, 1990). Relationships in business become weak if they are not continuously refreshed. Organizations should always ensure to keep in touch with their customers even after the completion of the business deal. Relationships depend on mutuality. Value must be shared for both supplier and customer to benefit (Wolf, 1990 and Jonston, 1998). One-sided attempts to profit at the customer’s expense are of no use. Mass production, distribution and marketing of goods and services will give way to mass customisation of products and services, communication and various other aspects that appeal to the customer, predominantly in the case of intangibles. There must sufficient and novel value to be created for both supplier and customer to deserve interest by both the parties involved.

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The consumer loyalty to the brands of a company is as results of interactions with the company. Others may choose a brand according to the opinions of his friends or on his own opinion whether they offer utility for money. This will not be done due to brand name but due a mix of influences. The financial capacity of the consumer influences buying decisions. A consumer with a relatively big disposable income can afford to go to the products of his choice wrote Chopra and Meindl (2003).

Conclusion

The company needs to change their customer service by changing their customer service survey to include being customers. These will help them understand why the customers prefer competitors and will assist in planning corrective measures that ensures their plans, policies, products, and services are as per the customers requirement. The corrective action that needs to be carried out should include pricing strategies, production cutting, pressure on sales force, incorporating public relations in dealing with customers complains (Michaelson, 1999).

Most of the companies are attempting to manage their business strategy in line with their operational delivery. The need of the hour in today’s business world is to develop strategies in such a way that they payback in terms of competitive advantage along with cost reduction. A firm that offers the consumer the same value as the competitors, but at a lower cost is said to possess cost advantage, whereas a company that offers superior value to its customers when compared to its competitors, possesses differentiation advantage. These two advantages are called positional advantages as they represent the firm’s leading capability in the industry in either of these advantages. Additionally, analyzing the customer segments’, the competitive environment, and internal performance should be a continuous process for an organization. A company that can develop an effective and efficient competitive intelligence system will always succeed in handling the competition to its advantage (Mullins, 1999). With this kind of scenario in the market, it is recommended that mobile phone operators consider the above mentioned recommendations and streamline the pricing mechanisms in order achieve competitive advantage wrote Schonberger (1997).

References

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Ryan, M & Martinson, D 1983, The PR Officer as the Corporate Conscience, Public Relations, 34, 20, 23.

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Wolf, J & Copulsky M 1990, Relationship Marketing: Positioning for the future. Journal of Business Strategy, pp. 16-20.

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