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“Special recipes” keeps hearts of clients

By Nguyen Hoang Anh_S3324421

Building and maintaining an agency-client relationship is not easy, particularly, reaching the highest ladder of customer relationship‘trusted partner’ is much harder. It is such an adventurous journey that takes time and great effort to complete. Critically, client is seemed to be the hardest “creature” to please, which always seeks to find something that fit into their needs as well as satisfy their taste.

Let’s imagine if clients were your customers and your agency were a restaurant, how could your restaurant succeed in retaining customers? The answer is SIMPLE…It is the ‘unique taste’ of  dishes and the ‘spectacular performance’ of the restaurant. The journey of satisfying and keeping clients stay loyally with a restaurant is similar to the journey of an agency in building and maintaining  a long-term agency-client relationship.

With an enthusiasm to discover what makes an agency successfully stand in clients’ heart, I had a chance to talk with my uncleMr. Pham Van Phat, who works currently as Managing Director of Consumer Link Market Research Corporation in Vietnam. With more than 17 years of experience in the industry, he is eager to share his thoughts on the issues to lovely readers of Client Management WordPress Vietnam.

Firgure 1: Reproduced from Pham (2012) : Mr. Pham Van Phat_Managing Director of Consumer Link Market Research Corporation, Vietnam.

Reproduced from Pham 2012 :Mr. Pham Van Phat_Managing Director of Consumer Link Market Research Corporation, Vietnam.

When I first mentioned about Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) and how could he manage to keep clients stay long with the agency, he immediately said: ‘For this matter, it is not only a complicated process that consists of various factors and strategies to get success but also an art of dealing with people’.

First, get to know your clients

Firgure 2: Reproduced from: Alistairmarshallconsulting 2011: Get to know your client.

Reproduced from: Alistairmarshallconsulting 2011: Get to know your client.

‘CRM is a business practice focused on clients so it is important to clearly understand what clients need, how clients prefer to make a deal and why clients choose my agency over the others’, he emphasized. Rather, Phat has dealt with many clients from different industries such as from the international to the local research companies, the global to the local manufacturers. Thus, he indicated that each kind of clients would have different ways to approach in terms of culture, working styles and request of service standards.

To a certain extent, Phat shared that the global clients, specifically the Western, who already have had good foundation of market research so that they would go directly to the point of what they want from the beginning of the research process. On the contrary, the local clients or the Eastern tend to be ‘very careful’ when they spend money on a research study and they usually ‘double-check’ over and over to ensure that they have got what they want.

Therefore, “if you want to open and walk into the client’s heart, getting to know your ‘king’ is a must”, Phat insisted.

Consumer Link Market Research (CLMR) was established in August 2010 and until now it has worked on hundreds of projects with successful achievement. Particularly, more than 95% of Phat’s current clients are its first clients that have sticked tightly with CLMR since it was established. In other words, whoever has come to CLMR would certainly come back and stay loyally after the 1st project CLMR did for them.

The “special recipes”….

Firgue 4: Reproduced from Matt 2011:  Finding your unique genius.

Reproduced from Matt 2011: Finding your unique genius.

When I asked how he could transform one-off relationship into a long-term relationship with the clients. He kindly indicated that it was the ‘core values’ of CLMR: the ‘unique’ service quality; ‘spectacular’ performance and ‘moment of truth’, which brought values and satisfaction to clients.

Interestingly, he visualized the process of generating the uniqueness of Consumer Link like a process of ‘cooking a special dish with love’, which will strongly spring the heart of clients. The first ingredient he uses for CLMR’s recipes is the special marketing mix. Particularly, instead of using 4 elements of 4Ps in marketing mix: ‘Product, Price, Place and Promotion’, Phat expanded the 4Ps into 8Ps with additional elements ‘People, Process, Productivity on quality management and Physical evidence to provide clients with high quality and reliable services. The ‘marketing mix’ helps marketers optimize and exploit its profit function (Grönroos 1994), which contributes greatly to the effectiveness of a successful CRM strategy (Lenka, Suar & Mohapatra 2009).

‘This strategy is used to create and increase the customer experience, which agency cannot avoid when interacting with clients’ Phat said. Rather, the first impression on clients of how CLMR performs and how the work is done would have strong influence on clients’ experience and decision to have “repeating purchase” or even stay long with CLMR.

Phat believed that people was the most important element in the 8Ps that were well-trained to create and deliver good experience to clients. Without these people, I cannot handle all of the work since they are the bones of CLMR’, Phat stressed.

Firgure 3: Reproduced from Pham 2012: The People- the bonds of Consumer Link Market Research

Reproduced from Pham 2012: The People- the bones of Consumer Link Market Research

If service quality and agency’s performance make great impression on the clients for the first time, trust is the one that retains the clients. The second ingredient of his recipes is ‘the spice of trust or the moment of truth’. Phat warmly stated  it was hard to build trust in the clients’ heart or mind but it would be easy if one knew how to make clients ‘confident’ in doing business with their agency.

Phat remarked a story of company XXX (*) that used to work with agency YYY (*) is now CLMR’s client. The manager of XXX is a closed friend of Phat, who shared with Phat that ‘we stopped the contract with YYY and never work with them again as they played trick on us in term of finance’. YYY tried to hide the real number but XXX had recognized and started to suspect. Thus, Phat insisted: ‘Never play with clients since you will lose everything if they find out the truth’.

Trust is a magic clue that sticks clients tightly with agency (Scott 2000). For Consumer Link, it is the reliability and high integrity in association with ‘consistent, competent, honest, fair, responsible and benevolent’  values of quality that helps CLMR maintains a long-term relationship with the clients.

Funnily enough, Phat joked ‘if you want to be a “master chef” in the industry, you must exceed and develop your “spice of trust”, which clients cannot find elsewhere apart from your company’.

Reproduced from Masterfile 2012 : Master chef.

Reproduced from Masterfile 2012 : Master chef.

“Good wine needs no bush”

Phat used to work for the big companies like ACNielsen, Uni-Solutions, Cimigo, Metro Cash & Carry, Maxu with important positions and some of these agencies’ clients are now CLMR’s clients. When I asked him about the problem of taking old business to a new company, his answer was straight forwards that clients had the right to choose who to work with.  And it is not ‘right wrong issues’ in fact but it is matter of business. Rather, Phat believes in Buddhism so he thinks that ‘there is always reciprocal allocation of rewards and punishment in life’. Thus, he strongly advised that ‘always consider carefully before doing anything, especially in the battle of business’. It is ‘your uniqueness’ that will attract clients without using any unethical trick.

To sum up, it is the service quality, performance, the people of agency that form a good foundation to satisfy the clients. Further, I think that ‘trust and integrity in business’ is the key element that contributes to the success of keeping hearts of clients. It is also the skills and techniques that Phat-the master chef of CLMR uses to transform his ‘ingredients’ into a ‘UNIQUE dishes’ that the clients can only find at Phat’s agency.

(*) Clients XXX, YYY, actual names withheld.

Proof of life

Taken by author, 2012

Taken by author, 2012

Word-count: 1120 (excluding captions and references)

References

Grönroos, C, 1994, 1994 ,”From Marketing Mix to Relationship Marketing: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Marketing”, Management Decision, vol.32, issue 2, pp. 4-20.

Lenka, U, Suar, D & Mohapatra, P K J, 2009, “Service Quality, Customer Satisfaction, and Customer Loyalty in Indian Commercial Banks”, The Journal of Entrepreneurship, vol. 18, pp.47-64.

Matt, 2011, ‘Finding your unique genius’, image, Aworldofinspiration, 23 July, viewed 21 December 2012,<http://www.aworldofinspiration.com/blog/finding-your-unique-genius-interview-aaron-ross&gt;  .

Masterfile, 2012, ‘Masterchef’, image, viewed 21 December 2012,<http://www.masterfile.com/stock-photography/image/400-05891424/Cartoon-smiling-chef-showing-thumbs-up-on-italian-flag-background.-Separate-layers&gt; .

Pham, VP, 2012, Interview, 16 December 2012.

Pham, VP, 2012, ‘Portrait’, image, Facebook, 16 November, viewed 17 December 2012,< https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4310957846342&set=a.4216096074857.2168902.1058732253&type=3&theater>.

Pham, VP, 2012, ‘Consumer Link Market Research’ s team’, image, Facebook, 16 November, viewed 17 December 2012,<https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4310947766090&set=a.4216096074857.2168902.1058732253&type=3&theater>   .

Scott, D 2000, Customer Satisfaction Practical Tools for Building Important Relationships, Thomson, Boston, US.

Sky Exachange,  2012, ‘Know your client’, image, Skyexchange, viewed 21 December 2012,<http://skyexchange.com.pk/?page_id=50> .

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3 thoughts on ““Special recipes” keeps hearts of clients

  1. Thank you very much for a very interesting article Hoang Anh!

  2. Thanks for your early reply, Mel.C

    I really wanted to add some personal opinions ; however, there are many concepts and stories that needed to be mentioned in the article.

    But I would try to let my voice heard more for the next time. :)) thanks again

  3. Interesting ‘food’ metaphor, consistent creative hook from start to finish which makes this both an educational and entertaining read. Supporting images, links and quotes supplement interview quotes. Some notes for future blog posts (personal or otherwise), make sure that ‘your voice’ (opinions) is heard a well. ~Mel C

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