Customer customization makes for higher retention rates. Six studies by Dr. Bruce Katcher's firm, The Discovery Surveys, Inc., found it to be the most important factor to customers. "They want products and services that will meet their specific needs," says Katcher.
•Assign specific staff the job of managing the relationship with your customers. Specialized staff can serve as ombudsmen to help your customers voice their concerns and suggest alternative methods for serving them. These employees should also gather ongoing intelligence from customers because their needs may change over time.
•Document customer requests. Katcher suggests you record and track customer requests. When patterns emerge, be ready to accommodate their concerns by changing how you conduct your business.
•Be willing to charge. Here's where the issue of profitability arises. If customizing is a value-added service, then your customers should be willing to pay for it. If your customers are unwilling to pay, says Katcher, the services may not really be that important to them.
• Be willing to change. If your initial plan for customization doesn't work, then be willing to change how you meet customers' needs. Or else, you will eventually lose them to someone who is willing to do so.