Far beyond brand advertising, loyalty schemes, and celebrity endorsements, the ability to talk to well informed and friendly sales staff whenever and wherever is convenient is what consumers really value in a retailer, according to research from the customer value management consortium, Connection.
The consortium's research asked a representative sample of 1,090 consumers in the UK what they felt constituted real customer value and how many times more likely they were to buy from a company who offered such 'value'.
What turned customers on
Product knowledge and convenience were pegged at 27% and 24% above average (respectively) in terms of what consumers think delivers real value. The ability to recognise the customer, their profile, and deal with them appropriately and personally also scored highly, at 16% above average.
What turned customers off
Interestingly, loyalty schemes came in at 2 percentage points below average. However, those from well-known brands and those with nationwide networks both came in at 4 percentage points above average.
The employment of environmentally friendly policies also registered a conservative response, scoring only 2% points above average. However, Celebrity endorsement (58% points below average) was considered the least effective technique in providing customer value.
According to Connection, companies that give their staff training to become effective brand representatives, and then support those staff with individual customer data that helps them make customer conversations more relevant and compelling, will create the kind of customer value that also generates a solid commercial return on investment.
Graham Ede, CEO for Connection, explained: "People most value the ability to contact a commercial organisation whenever and wherever convenient to themselves, and when they make that contact, be personally recognised and receive answers and targeted offers from people who know what they are talking about. These research findings help to emphasize how much consumers appreciate value of convenient access and intelligent response, to the extent that it makes them over four times as likely to buy from organisations that treat them in this way."
Respondents were also asked which sectors they believed offer the most value. IFAs (+25%), Hotels and Supermarkets (+18%) took the top three places. Food Brands were rated in fourth position at 12% above average.
The sectors that were believed to deliver the least value were: Car dealers (-18%), Estate Agents (-22%) and Utilities (-24%). Also worth noting was the fact that, despite all their investment in customer relationship management systems, banks were still considered below average in delivering customer value (-4%).
Ede concluded: "This insight provides organisations with a timely warning to invest in database marketing that treats customers in a personalised and intelligent fashion, however they choose to interact with the company, whether in person, over the phone, on the web or through post or email."
Connection is a new customer value management consortium, made up of firms from the MoonRiver Group and other third party organisations, covering the full spectrum of customer management activities.