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In the contemporary globalised world of business, with its attendant stiff competitions, effective customer care is universally accepted as a sine-qua-non for corporate survival, profitability and growth. It is an offshoot of the marketing concepts, which emphasizes customers’ satisfaction, as opposed to the selling concept, which is organization-centric (Edeani, 1996:163).
According to Kotler (1997:530), customer care practices include all those activities which cast an organization in positive light before its customers and thus, aimed at wining and retaining their patronage. They revolve around such organizational activities like:
· Pre-purchase information, education and services;
· Public relations programmes
· Sales promotional programmes
· Appropriate pricing and sales-discounts
· Conducive selling environments
· Appealing organizational staff attitude to or friendly corporate culture with customers
· Neat, attentive, assiduous and customer-friendly sales-attendants.
Hence, customer care practices have been identified as
a key factor that could influence customer’s decision to buy products from a particular supermarket instead of the other.
Talking about supermarket, Kurtz and Boone (1984:429) defines it as a large-scale department entalised retail store: offering a variety of food products such as meats, produce, diary products, canned goods and frozen foods, in addition to various non-food items. It operates on self-service basis and emphasizes low prices and adequate parking facilities.
To remain in business, a supermarket must be abreast of its competitor activities and also customers-focused. This will guide the firm to adjust her policies, products and services towards meeting both competition and customers’ needs. To be customer-focused, you must continually engage you customers; learn their needs and preference and act upon
the information acquired. Companies that do so gain a tremendous advantage: the ability to customaize products and services to individual request (Leerskov (2004:4).
Ultimately, customers will remember more, how a company treated them, than where they interacted with it, Schmitt and Schmitt (2003). This underscores the importance of customer-cares in winning and retaining customers. In the views of Jeff Thull (2003:24), “Knowing thy customers and what they value most and then, taking the challenge to deliver it as they want, makes the difference between corporate failure and success”. Those seeking a Panacea regarding all customer information and touch points, or interactions, must evaluate their channel partner regarding all customer information and touch points, or interactions, must evaluate their channel partner mix and technology usage aimed at competing with highly adaptive rivals. Many customer relationship management (CRM) projects will fail-doomed before code is written, processes changed or employee roles redesigned - because they focus on improving customer relationships for values not
understood, around corporate infrastructures that support outdated business models. The widely evangelized merits or CRM rely on an infrastructure that will listen to and extract knowledge about customers, enhancing a company’s understanding of their needs expectations and behaviours and enabling it to respond dynamically to opportunity (new products and services) or change (i.e. when, where and how customers want to conduct business), yet fulfilling this directive across customer touch points - direct sales, services, marketing as well as all resellers ,value added resellers distributors and partners would be an overwhelming, if not impossible goal involving daunting issues such as security. User acceptance. Support, data integrity, and managing knowledge compilation and data sharing. Many companies i.e. for the same business and would unlikely share their knowledge with competitive partners. Few companies have realized a smaller version of this goal within their sales, service and marketing organization (Ritchkoff, 2000:16). Moreover, such a myopic vision of customer values and needs cannot deliver the
ultimate value sought. (Ritchkoff, 2000) adds. Is time being wasted in assimilating customer knowledge to be used in selling to buyers who now insist on buying rather than being sold? Sellers focus on marketing, selling and product support. Yet customers focus on shopping, buying and problem resolution. Missing this point perpetuates divided enterprise.
Money has been spent to build efficiency based CRM systems-to improve flow and achieve prescribed objectives. Such objectives include compiling comprehensive knowledge about customers that enables selling from a position of understanding - about trends, needs; buying habits etc. those objectives also incorporate delivering data to marketers who attempt to be more focused in traditional marketing, though experts espouse the virtues of one-to-one marketing. Finally, CRM objectives entail providing comprehensive information to service and support functions so that call center personnel, for example can respond more quickly and accurately to customer questions. Though CRM systems need to be designed to optimize customer
satisfaction, integrated voice response units can be used to capture customer calls and drive customers to tears before giving a sales representative the opportunity to serve them.
To be successful therefore, managers and owners of supermarkets in Nigeria must ask themselves the following questions, according to peppers and Rogers (2000):
· How do our customers want to buy from us short term or long term?
· What do our customers most deeply value?
· What business models allow us to adapt quickly to daily market demands while serving customers expectations and our business needs?
· What is a practical strategy of integrating customer interactions through, internal business functions and external constituencies?
· What is the future for direct sales, resellers and intermediaries in the market?
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