As the U.S. food industry adopts the principles of Efficient Consumer Response, other businesses are doing similar things. Some have found answers that may apply to the food industry, too.
Here's a suggestion for the customer-aware executive in the food industry who meets the following criteria:
You are male. You need a suit (or sport coat). (Note: If you do not meet these criteria, find someone who does and drag him along.) The suggestion: learn from a personal experience.
The Men's Wearhouse is a retailer that has developed a very successful -- and personal -- customer marketing program. It is based on a simple philosophy: Know Thy Customer. The founder of the company, George Zimmer, encourages employee practices that yield that result.
The Zimmer system kicks in after you purchase a suit. The salesperson calls within a week of alterations to ask if you are satisfied.
It doesn't stop there. As a customer registered in the salesmen's handbook, you are encouraged to take advantage of complimentary pressings. This is described as a way to lower dry cleaning expenses and reduce wear and tear on suits.
This "entitlement" is also a good way to increase store sales. Pressing is while-you-wait. In the store. (I wonder how many ties, socks and shirts move as a direct result.)
The program is simple and executable. The database -- the salesperson's book -- contains information about the customer that can be used and enhanced over time. Not fancy, but effective.
What The Men's Wearhouse does to make customers feel good is not new. Other retailers have and will continue to use this and other techniques to build strong relationships with their customers. However, it is refreshing to experience the interaction and the residual -- a feeling that your needs are being met because somebody is making the effort to understand them.
Pretty basic goal for marketing and one that we sometimes lose sight of. If it has been a while since you've experienced the feeling, try one on to see what it feels like. If you are a customer-aware marketing executive, ask yourself, "Do my customers feel like this?"