People as part of the marketing mix
People are the most important element of any service or experience. Services tend to be produced and consumed at the same moment, and aspects of the customer experience are altered to meet the individual needs of the person consuming it. Most of us can think of a situation where the personal service offered by individuals has made or tainted a tour, vacation or restaurant meal. Remember, people buy from people that they like, so the attitude, skills and appearance of all staff need to be first class. People have an important role in service delivery, they are relied upon to deliver and maintain transactional marketing and people play an important part in the customer relationship.
There are different kinds of salesperson. There is the product delivery salesperson. His or her main task is to deliver the product, and selling is of less importance e.g. fast food, or mail. The second type is the order taker, and these may be either ‘internal’ or ‘external.’ The internal sales person would take an order by telephone, e-mail or over a counter. The external sales person would be working in the field. In both cases little selling is done.
The next sort of sales person is the missionary. Here, as with those missionaries that promote faith, the salesperson builds goodwill with customers with the longer-term aim of generating orders. Again, actually closing the sale is not of great importance at this early stage. The forth type is the technical salesperson, e.g. a technical sales engineer. Their in-depth knowledge supports them as they advise customers on the best purchase for their needs. Finally, there are creative sellers. Creative sellers work to persuade buyers to give them an order. This is tough selling, and tends to offer the biggest incentives. The skill is identifying the needs of a customer and persuading them that they need to satisfy their previously unidentified need by giving an order.
Many products, services and experiences are supported by customer services teams. Customer services provide expertise (e.g. on the selection of financial services), technical support (e.g. offering advice on IT and software) and coordinate the customer interface (e.g. controlling service engineers, or communicating with a salesman). The disposition and attitude of such people is vitally important to a company. The way in which a complaint is handled can mean the difference between retaining or losing a customer, or improving or ruining a company’s reputation. Today, customer service can be face-to-face, over the telephone or using the Internet. People tend to buy from people that they like, and so effective customer service is vital. Customer services can add value by offering customers technical support, expertise and advice.
People deliver services in all sorts of settings. It is an important element of the services marketing mix. If you go to an organized event such as the Olympics then everything about the experience is underpinned by people. Behind-the-scenes there are project managers and chefs, maitre d’ and accountants. The people deliver the service and this is the same for restaurants, hairdressers and auto mechanics.
People are the transactional interface between the company and its customers so people deliver the service and they collect money i.e. get paid on behalf the company for the service. So if you go to a restaurant the waiter will greet you, take your order and serve your food and finally he or she will take the money which completes the contractual transaction.
People underpin the customer relationship between the company and the consumer. Remember that people buy from people (as we always remind you on Marketing Teacher) and that the relationship between the person you are dealing with and yourself add much value to the transaction.
If you know you’re going to eat at your favorite restaurant, it a good idea to learn the waiter’s name and build a rapport. Think of other times such as when you were selling a property and an agent was a particularly reliable and polite person, or perhaps you bought a car because you trusted the salesperson and this advantage clinched the deal. Marketing today is based on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and the relationship with people that you’re dealing with at the company can recruit you as a customer, retaining you as a customer and encourage you to remain a customer in the future. This is where people underpin the long-term customer relationship.
All customer facing personnel need to be trained and developed to maintain a high quality of personal service. Training should begin as soon as the individual starts working for an organization during an induction. The induction will involve the person in the organization’s culture for the first time, as well as briefing him or her on day-to-day policies and procedures. At this very early stage the training needs of the individual are identified. A training and development plan is constructed for the individual which sets out personal goals that can be linked into future appraisals. In practice most training is either ‘on-the-job’ or ‘off-the-job.’ On-the-job training involves training whilst the job is being performed e.g. training of bar staff. Off-the-job training sees learning taking place at a college, training center or conference facility. Attention needs to be paid to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) where employees see their professional learning as a lifelong process of training and development.