The term “customer” refers to an actor in the process of purchase that buys a product. It might be a person or a business entity. The distinctive feature of a customer is that a customer pays money for the product regardless of the fact if he or she uses it or not. Therefore, customers serve as business drivers, providing entrepreneurs and customers with income and incentivizing business in general. The importance of customers is obvious to businesses, so a lot of effort is traditionally put into studying actual and potential costumers, attracting new ones and managing customer relationships. There are several methods of enlarging a company’s customer base, including active marketing, providing prices acceptable to a wider range of buyers, making unique offers, and so on.
That has always been apparent that a customer will likely return to a company or a seller that satisfies his or her needs the best way, so a quality customer service is crucial for business.
Customer studying and research
For better understanding their customer bases, many businesses closely monitor and study those who buy their goods and services. Typically, it’s done via collecting big amounts of information on different indicators, such as age, occupation, marital status and gender, location, income and some others, and then analyzing it, usually using methods of big data analytics and algorithms to find out patterns and correlations. This practice has become extremely popular nowadays, and is backed by scientific research and scholarly training provided by many universities and other educational institutions around the world. Social surveys are also often completed to gather the needed information for making up a reliable customer profile.
After the collected data is analyzed and clear results are presented, companies use the results to adjust their marketing strategies, advertising and customer services to meet their customers’ needs in an improved way. If the research results show that the products need an improvement, they are redesigned to appeal to customers.
Types of Customers
Firstly, it’s important to distinguish customers and consumers. While a customer might be a consumer at the same time, it’s not always so, and the difference lies in that a customer is the one who purchases a product, and a consumer is the one who uses it. These words might be connected in many contexts and the former can be used instead of the latter, but they are actually about different things.
One of the modern classifications of customers is made by considering whether a customer is a consumer of the product.
According to this classification, the following types exist:
- an intermediary (or a trader) is a customer, who never uses the purchased product, as it is intended to be resold;
- an end user (or an ultimate user) is a customer, who buys a product to use it or to pass the bought good to someone else to be used without the following sale.
Another classification divides customers into internal and external ones:
- internal ones are linked with the company, as employees, shareholders or in any other way;
- external ones aren’t connected with the company they buy products from in any way, but purchasing their goods or services.
There have been studies proving that the satisfaction of the internal customers’ needs ultimately leads to an increase in the external customers’ happiness with the company’s goods and services. At the same time, there still are debates on whether this classification is relevant. The main reason of its opponents is that a real, unbiased customer can’t be a subordinate to a company he or she buys products from.
Although there are many things that might attract new customers and retain current ones, with the most common of them are low prices, easy accessibility of a company’s stores or offices, products’ quality and uniqueness, one thing has always been considered highly important. This is customer service, and without a proper customer service, it’s difficult for a business to be profitable.
Customer service is represented by a direct interaction of a customer and a company employee, such as a sales person or a manager, during the process of choosing and purchasing a product. The quality of this interaction and the customer’s satisfaction with the process and result directly affects the customer’s intention to return and make more purchases from the company. Moreover, a quality customer service maintains customers’ loyalty and often results in good publicity expressed in admirable reviews, comments on the Internet and a general positive image of the company. These are the reasons why a proper service is important. A slogan “The customer is always right” has appeared in the business sphere a long time ago and perfectly represents the main principles of a perfect customer service - a customer’s needs is the main priority for the business, as its income and profit depends on it.
In the modern world, customer service isn’t limited to in-store interactions, it’s a complex system including the right marketing, staying in touch with the customers before and after the purchase and providing the necessary support in different situations.