Understanding and Serving Your Customers

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Learn from these companies that are doing it right

Recently, I attended a public forum called “Healthcare in the 21st Century: A Community Call to Action.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Atul Gawande, author, surgeon and healthcare thought leader. Gawande said that patients, like customers, have a level of expectation on quality and deserve a capability to make informed choices. In fact, in his book "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right," he uses examples from the airline and construction industries to explain how to get it right.

He was encouraging healthcare providers to think in new ways about customer service, and he complimented those present at the talk who were already doing so. Gawande said that creating and implementing innovative solutions for customers based on good information delivers results. Commercial businesses are not dealing with life-and-death situations, but there are many who are emerging from tough economic times by doing exactly what Gawande prescribes. Companies that have their “ear to the ground,” observing consumer trends and reinventing the way they do things for their customers, are also keeping their businesses healthy and delivering profits.

Here are some great examples.

 

Hungry for Information

Companies like Starbucks are trying to address the huge global concern about unhealthy diets. They are listening to their customers’ desires for calorie information and healthier food, and responding by posting this information in their stores and on their websites and actively changing their offerings. While they do sell plenty of high-fat, high-sugar, caloric foods, they also offer alternatives. For example, Starbucks prominently displays nutrition information on its menu blog. Here customers can learn all about the foods and drinks that are low in calories, share the information with others and post their comments. The company also has fliers prominently posted in each of its stores so that customers can readily obtain nutrition information. This year, Starbucks announced a new customer feedback site called My Starbucks Idea, where customers can share ideas and vote on others. The posted Starbucks results showed nearly 39 percent shareholder return on investment and $13.3 billion in revenue for 2012.

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About the author

Andrea Cotter

Andrea Cotter, President and Founder, ACotter Global Brands. Andrea coaches executives and teams helping them to put in place strategies and communications that will take them to the next level.  She is also an Adjunct Professor of Strategic Communication at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. 
During a 30-year career at IBM Corporation, Andrea Cotter held many integrated marketing and communications roles for various IBM products and services and executive roles as Global Director of Linux and of Healthcare and Life Science Marketing.  At UPMC in Pittsburgh, PA, Andrea was SVP of Communications, responsible for enterprise-wide brand marketing, advertising, clinical marketing and public relations.   Most recently Andrea served as temporary President of a brand consultancy in New York, New York.