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"Managing the Customer Relationship" by Gerry Condron: Meeting of 23 October 2001

Mr. Gerry Condron, Chairman of the Scottish Branch gave a presentation on "Managing the Customer Relationship" in the First Aberdeen Training Room, Aberdeen.

Gerry Condron outlined the background to the formation of his company, Quadrant Care, which focusses on the common theme of customer care. The company name is based on four modules which can be summarised as:

(i) know your customer profile and history;
(ii) measure your track record with your customer;
(iii) organize the company to become customer focussed; and
(iv) continuously improve, learning from experience.

As an example of the importance of customer care he cited the Malcolm Baldrige national quality award. This award is based on a marking system of 1000 points, of which a large percentage (300 points) are allocated to the measurement of customer care.

Gerry demonstrated how bad news travels fast, and that it is more cost-effective to retain customers than replace them. Dealing with complaints quickly and well can reap benefits as 95% of these complainants will do further business. However, for every person who complains there are likely to be 26 unhappy (but silent) customers. Gerry advised that the concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be a useful management tool. However, the terminology is mainly associated with a software package used by major stores, in conjunction with loyalty cards. Whilst this software enables the collection of data at the electronic point of sale, it does not necessarily provide the customer with an improved service.

A worthwhile exercise for any organisation is to consider all of the points of customer contact which can influence customer service. Depending on the complexities of any transaction there can be many such "moments of truth" when the actions of any one individual can have a positive or negative effect on the customer relationship. Gerry provided an iceberg analogy, where the direct customer contact lies above the surface. However the bulk of customer care is carried out internally within your organisation (below the surface) and is affected by such factors as company rules, staff attitudes, personal behaviour and personalities. These matters need to be recognised and addressed before focussing on the external relationship. Finally, Gerry pointed out that quality customer care exists in the mind of the customer (not the provider).

Recommended further reading: David Freemantle "Incredible Customer Service".

Report by Marion Mackay.


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