By David Sims
David at firstcoffee d*t biz
Businesses need customer birds to survive. Without them, businesses rapidly go extinct. It is the purpose of this field guide to explain the basic types of customer birds, how they can be identified, and their relative value to your company.
Veteran business owners will know how to use this guide. But if you’re new to CRM, it will prove useful to familiarize yourself with the basic categories of customer birds:
- New Birds. People who are buying things from you for the first time.
- Repeat Birds. People buying things from your company more than once.
- Regular Buyers. People who buy things from your company regularly.
- Passerine (Perching) Birds. Need to be lured into buying from you.
- Fowl-like Birds. Customer birds who just can’t be satisfied.
- Scavengers. People who would only buy things from you when they’re on sale.
- Endangered Specie. Somebody who doesn’t buy from you anymore.
- Hostile Bird. Somebody who avoids buying from your company.
And the most rare type of all:
- Loyal Birds. People who buy things pretty much just because you’re selling them.
Customer Bird Evolution
Birds generally evolve over time. They can evolve progressively, such as a New Bird becoming a Repeat Bird or Loyal Bird, or regressively, going from a New Bird or Regular Bird to a Passerine Bird, Endangered Specie or Hostile Bird, missing no chance to swoop and attack your company’s reputation and frighten off other birds.
While a certain amount of evolution occurs outside of the control of a business, a great deal of customer bird evolution is influenced by conditions and circumstances controlled by the business itself. While you do not have total control over customer birds, you can affect the evolution of the birds which do come into contact with your business.
New Birds or Repeat Birds are highly susceptible to evolutionary influences, so usually the most attention is paid to these birds by CRM practitioners for relatively quick ROI. However, the most profitable results are obtained via careful attention to Regular and even Loyal Birds. Foolish companies take these magnificent creatures for granted or presume upon their good will or loyalty to get away with shoddy service or products.
This is indeed a tragedy, since a Regular Bird or Loyal Bird who has turned into an Endangered Specie, which happens more frequently than most businesses would care to contemplate, can rarely and only with great difficulty be reclaimed as even a Regular Bird, normally regressing into a Passerine Bird, Scavenger or even Hostile Bird.
Naturally some bird types are more desirable than others. Fowl-like Birds and Passerines are of little value and can be gently encouraged to alternate habitats, but care must be taken to ensure they do not become Hostile Birds. Birds in the wild will naturally hover around certain businesses offering the habitat and feeding they desire, and all birds have several businesses as part of their daily environment.
The goal of CRM is to help transform New Birds into Repeat, Regular and Loyal Birds, and avoid turning them into Endangered Species and Hostile Birds.
Identifying Customer Birds
There are characteristics which can be used to classify customer birds. Which category a bird falls into will usually determine not only the value of your business to the bird, but the value of the bird to your business because, after all, not all birds are equally valued.
New Birds. Customer birds buying from your company for the first time. New birds must be treated with care, as they are far more expensive to attract than other birds, and in a new habitat are alert and sensitive to the behavior of your business. If they have a positive experience with your business, the New Bird will likely return like a swallow to Capistrano and become a profitable Repeat or Regular Bird.
Repeat Birds. When a New Bird returns for additional purchases it is classified as a Repeat Bird. The behavior of Repeat Birds varies widely. Some birds will only return as infrequently as the ocean-faring albatross to its New Zealand nest, and cannot be induced to do otherwise. Others will make your business part of its daily or weekly feeding.
Regular Birds. When you notice a bird has returned a few times — behavior you are tracking with careful data mining and analysis, right? — that bird is a prized Regular Bird. The great value of Regular Birds is they do not need to be lured to your business via expensive advertising, marketing and other promotions, they have developed enough of a homing instinct to make the return journey themselves.
It is a fatal error to take Regular Birds for granted, however, as the evolutionary process with birds is never complete. Regular Birds can be helped along to achieve Loyal Bird status. This is done by contacting Regular Birds to determine what qualities of the business or product are attracting the birds, and altering aspects of the business proving harmful to the birds’ comfort so they do not become Endangered Species.
Passerine (Perching) Birds. These are birds which respond occasionally to advertising or promotional efforts, which can sometimes be induced into buying from your company, but which only occasionally evolve into Regular Birds, generally preferring instead to flit from one thing to another. Care must still be taken that they are not turned into Endangered Species or Hostile Birds, or the Norwegian Blue parrot pining for the fjords.
Fowl-like Birds. Some birds are really just more trouble than they’re worth. They might make purchases from your company but they’re forever on the phone or e-mail, demanding this and that and God only knows what else, and are a net drain on your business. Do yourself a favor — get a good Mossberg shotgun and simply blast ‘em out of the sky. Best served with potatoes, a julienne of carrots, lemon and a dry white wine.
Scavengers. The CRM community is divided on the value of Scavengers, the ravens, the hooting owls, the crows and vultures which feed on the carrion of dead and dying businesses. Some maintain that, although they tend to buy only during sales and promotions, they can evolve into Repeat or Regular Birds. This veteran CRM birder concedes that while they can perform a useful service in eating overstock, their real value is the message they send: Scavengers will always be present, hovering around even the healthiest of companies, but they do flock to unhealthy ones and are the proverbial canaries in coal mines — if you notice more Scavengers and fewer Regular and Repeat Birds hovering about, something is deadly wrong with your company.
Endangered Specie. An endangered specie is a New, Repeat or Regular or even Passerine Bird which was, through either negative interaction with your business or other habitat changes, does not buy from you anymore. The utmost efforts should be made to contact endangered species and ascertain if you did something to drive the bird off, or alter its habitat enough to cause it to seek feeding grounds elsewhere. Endangered species can be resuscitated, and they’re generally worth the time and trouble to do so. Sometimes a simple show of concern — “Hey, we miss you, what can we do to get you back?” — on your company’s part can be a powerful lure to reclaim them.
Hostile Birds. A tragic case of a once-promising relationship with a New, Repeat, Passerine or even Regular Bird which, through some fault of yours, will have nothing to do with your company. Difficult to recapture, their value is in their object lesson of what behaviors to avoid so your company doesn’t end up dead as a dodo. There are inspiring stories of Hostile Birds through heroic effort on the part of CRM practitioners being reclaimed, and evolving into Loyal Birds, and there is even a school of thought which maintains that the crisis point at which a bird can become hostile is one of the greatest opportunities in a customer’s relationship to cement the evolution to Loyal Bird. This can be true, but if your birds are reaching that tipping point into hostility you’re probably losing far more Regular Birds than you’re converting to Loyal Birds.
Loyal Birds. By far the most desirable birds, Loyal Birds are ones who feel an emotional bond with your company. They will seek out your product, encourage others to buy from you and are the least price-conscious of birds, but they do expect reciprocation — they expect you to maintain the quality, brand appeal and customer service which evolved them to loyalty. Do so and you’ll feast on this goose’s golden eggs for a long time.