Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Customer Relationship Management: Making Hard Decisions with Soft Numbers

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Customer Relationship Management: Making Hard Decisions with Soft Numbers

Article excerpt

Anton, J. (1996). Customer relationship management: Making hard decisions with soft numbers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, (ISBN 0-13-438-474-1), $34.40, hardcover, 183 pp.

Managers, consultants, and academic theorists alike increasingly stress the contribution of long-term customer relationships to the ultimate success of service businesses. In so far as the hospitality, tourism, and leisure industries are services, no one who works in or studies these areas can be unaware of the growing interest in customer relationships. Popular accounts by successful managers such as Jan Carlzon's Moments of Truth, Tom Peters's many books including Liberation Management or Terry G. Vavra's Aftermarketing: How to Keep Customers for Life Through Relationship Marketing, and the recommendations of Christopher Gronroos in his Service Management and Marketing have brought about a revolution in the theory and management of services. Thus, few observers would disagree that long term customer relationships lie at the heart of current services theory and practice. But once convinced of the importance of managing customer relationships, how should the manager of a service business proceed to implement a systematic customer relationship strategy? Jon Anton and his colleagues at Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality have tried to describe this relationship in a new book. They present a clear and comprehensive blueprint for measuring customer satisfaction and using this information to improve business practice.

This how-to book is addressed to two audiences: (1) managers who wish to implement customer relationship programs but don't know how to proceed and (2) students wishing to learn specific techniques for customer relationship management that they can apply after graduation. This preeminently practical text proceeds logically and systematically, beginning with two chapters on the philosophy of customer satisfaction. The major themes are that loyal customers are valuable to service businesses because it costs less to retain them than to gain new customers, they provide disproportionately more revenue than most customers, they generate positive word-of-mouth, and they are good sources of product improvement information. A final theme is that enhanced customer satisfaction leads to improved employee morale and performance. Moreover, although most managers are comfortable with and, in fact, demand accounting information as a normal part of management information systems, many managers view customer satisfaction and retention information as unavailable or too vague for actual decision making purposes. Anton discusses these concerns and presents cogent arguments for measuring customer satisfaction using both qualitative and quantitative methods and then using these "soft numbers" to promote customer relationships.

Chapter three briefly describes how managers can use qualitative techniques such as focus groups, customer advisory panels, and the critical incident technique to learn how and why customers are satisfied or dissatisfied with a service provider. The central portion of the book is contained in the next five chapters describing the use of surveys to quantitatively measure a variety of satisfaction/dissatisfaction elements. To enhance the usefulness of these measures, Anton describes in detail ways to link customer perceptions of service value to internal, employee-focused measures of performance, so that managers know precisely what to "fix," reengineer, or reward internally to bring about higher levels of performance and satisfaction.

Several elements make up the system. Anton recommends first understanding in detail the key attributes underlying customer expectations leading to satisfaction and to value assessments. Questionnaire design, sampling, and survey methods are briefly described and accompanied by examples of the paraphernalia of survey research, including coding and entering data. …

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