Up close and personal

Steve Pateman, Executive Director, Head of UK Banking, on the benefits of really getting to know your customer.

As one of the judges of this year’s National Business Awards, I’ve been impressed by how the finalists have risen to the challenge of adapting their offering to appeal to a new type of customer. Following the economic crisis, consumers are becoming increasingly selective about where they put their money – they want to enjoy a meaningful relationship with the companies they choose to engage with. 

Intimate thinking

The problem is that not all businesses find it easy to establish this kind of intimacy. Those at the bigger end of the scale are learning a lot from their smaller counterparts, which are able to move more quickly, adapting to the whims of the customer they are courting. Waitrose, for instance, is enjoying huge success because it knows its consumer inside out. UK hi-fi company Bowers and Wilkins is another good example. They are focused on what they do, do it well, but remain impressively in touch with who they are selling to.

Embrace technology

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from using technology as a way of making customers feel valued, such as using new media as a way of responding promptly to complaints. I also feel it is vital to nurture an equally strong relationship with your staff. As your company grows, they should continue to enjoy providing high levels of quality customer service.

Tell it like it is

I strongly believe that today’s consumer values honesty above all else, and will be more loyal if they see it is as important to you – it’s about mutual respect. No organisation should be afraid of admitting when they’ve made a mistake. Trust, loyalty and empathy matter, to your customers and, ultimately, to your success. The finalists of the National Business Awards have understood this, and made it part of their DNA.

The winner of the 2011 National Business Awards was announced on Tuesday 8 November: www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK