TO thrive as a business in this technological age it was paramount to put customer service front and centre, Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic Clifford Lewis said last week.
Even if you didn't make a sale, recommending another business which might better service the customer's needs engendered good faith and trust - key elements in keeping customers coming back to your shop.
Dr Lewis presented his lecture, "Putting the Customer at the Heart of the Service Experience", at the Centre for Professional Development at CSU, saying there were three key elements to understand and appreciate in keeping abreast of how to run a business in the modern age.
Firstly, the impact of technology had changed consumerism; secondly, businesses needed to constantly "audit to examine orientation" in the marketplace; and, thirdly, businesses should constantly be coming up with ideas and new ways of doing things.
We live in a world overrun with technology but lacking the personal touch - which was something customers craved and what businesses now had to focus on in order to survive, Dr Lewis said.
"Technology is changing how we act as consumers," he said. "We're not in the world of selling anymore."
Also, "technology has freed us up but made us impatient and entitled" and "our attention is declining".
Dr Lewis's lecture explored the psychology of technology and what customers seek.
"We have created a world that is so transactional we are lacking authenticity," Dr Lewis said. "Are we wasting our money by using technology to kill the person?"
The new way of thinking - putting the customer at the centre of the service experience - was "not an exercise in cost adding but one about value creation", he said.
Everything in our lives had become "last minute - we have more ways to plan but are more disorganised".
Consequently, "customers want a connection", he said. "They want to know they can trust you; they want to know you have them covered ... these soft aspects of a brand are becoming more important."
The second point Dr Lewis raised, auditing, was a chance to "reflect on our own business".
"Do we know what our strengths are? Do we know how to improve?" he asked.
Companies needed plans and policies focused on customer service, staff empowerment and resolving faults, he said.
Dr Lewis's third point, ideas to keep your business relevant, firstly asked the 30 lecture attendees why they went back to particular businesses.
Dr Lewis said, typically, customers returned to a business because it was fast, cheap, had quality or luxury, was user friendly or because there was a level of trust.
"The key to customer service is 'surprise and delight'," Dr Lewis said. "Define yourself: have something they can connect to. Who are you? What are you good at? What values do you live by? This is becoming important to millennials."
The marketing lecture was organised as part of BizMonth by CenWest Innovate and Bathurst Regional Council.
Another council-run event, a talk by new ABC chair, media powerhouse Ita Buttrose, will be held on Tuesday, September 24. Tickets are $70.