The Ruddick Int'l Group  

Customer Satisfaction and Institutional Image

Improved customer satisfaction is rarely accomplished by means of a quick fix. Understanding the problem areas and discerning the expectations customers have is foundational. Likewise, identifying the perception gap between the customer and key employees is often a requirement, before addressing the pivotal issue of the confidence gap that often undermines the perceived value of the business.

Our approach which links customer satisfaction, to employee perceptions of customer satisfaction and then to the institution's corporate image, enables customer satisfaction to move from a defensive stance to an offensive posture. It will also involve greater focus given to what we label as relationship communication.

A strong Relationship Communication Program becomes the point in which the quality of service program moves into an offensive posture. The offensive posture begins with the strengthening of customer relationships through more proactive problem solving and an orientation of providing business solutions based on customer needs. The offensive posture is set in motion by harnessing the potential .... and the positives (based on motivational distinctives) associated with the client's Institutional Image and the Value of the Business, ..... from the customer perspective, .... while addressing the inconsistencies that tend to undermine these positives.

The relationship communication program therefore becomes the foundation for a coordinated customer satisfaction-supported image development program. The underlying wisdom behind a coordinated customer satisfaction, quality service and image development approach, is because institutional image simply is not credible when there are soft spots in customer satisfaction.

Relationship communication begins with the identification and understanding of key attitudes and segments of a particular customer base. The objective is to identify the communication orientation that undergirds the ongoing stream of transactions between "buyer and seller." This concept is based on the analogy that the first sale usually serves to initiate a courtship relationship between buyer and seller. The marriage potentially follows. How well the marriage develops will depend on how well the relationship is managed by the seller. Our experience in this area enables us to provide the insights needed to strengthen client relationships.

The fact is that the relationship between buyer and seller seldom ends when the sale is made. Most organizations can avoid many hassles and inefficiencies, while enhancing their standing in the eyes of their customers by managing their relationship with their customers. This will involve special attention geared to what uniquely characterizes a specific relationship. It will involve time. It considers the changing character of assurances by which purchases are made.

Typically, the seller .... operating at a distance from the buyer (a distance reflected by the level of understanding of the buyer). reaches out with a sales department to unload onto the buyer what the seller has decided to make and market.

But, by contrast, consider marketing as:

Here the seller, operating much closer to the buyer, penetrates the buyer's domain to learn about the buyer needs, desires and expectations, then designs and supplies what is needed in forms to fit the need.

Over time, the potential for an interdependence develops. That interdependence between buyer and seller is developed through relationship communication programs that operate at all levels throughout an organization. The interface between buyer and seller is transformed into interdependence through relationship development.

Understanding the institutional image an organization projects to its customers and the market place is a matter involving both the interaction between the customer and those front line employees who interact with the customer. It will bear significantly on customer satisfaction. It will address specific principles that should be applied to the approach needed to maximize your advantage and uniqueness in the marketplace. Closely tied to the institutional image is the matter of positioning.

Positioning is something of an in-house advertising term that communicates who you are (to the customer) in terms of the competitive advantage you offer (and communicate) within the context of the market environment you work in. It is important to understand that positioning involves a place that you, as an institution, occupy in the minds of your customers.

Positioning our clients to address the issue of closing the CONFIDENCE GAP with a growing proportion of key customers. Positioning will be based upon identified motivational distinctives and appeals. This understanding will have as its goal the strengthening of relationships. The strengthening of relationships in turn will incorporate repositioning our client away from any negative impressions held by customers and potential customers, to creating the atmosphere and CONSISTENT MESSAGES that engender top of mind awareness responses from the customer that are consistent with a new customer service orientation being promulgated from the top. In so doing, the insights from this program will serve to increase the level of business while increasing the strength of the cooperative, proactive relationships with key customers.

The Ruddick Int'l Group
P.O. Box 370291
Denver, Colorado 80237-0291 USA
Phone (303) 741-9000
Fax (303) 741-9100
©1997-2006 Ruddick Int'l Group

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