Being mostly a push activity and dealing with customers in volume, it can be hard for marketing to get a true picture of the customer's experience. Focus groups and questionnaires can deliver so much, but not usually the instant, uninhibited response of a customer who has just suffered, say, a missed delivery or a faulty product.
In my experience, apart from talking to customers yourself, nothing beats listening to staff in the company who are in daily contact with them - like sales, admin and customer support. Keeping good relationships and open channels of communication with those people will deliver a goldmine of customer intelligence that can improve all aspects of marketing, from pricing and communication to product development. At Sellerdeck, for example, we have been careful to maintain a positive relationship between sales and marketing staff, and we get feedback from sales into marketing on an ongoing basis. I'm sure this has contributed to the good relationships and loyalty we enjoy from most of our customers.
All the same, we are in business to generate profit and make a living. Loyalty is important, but businesses have to remain commercially viable. You can't serve your customers if you go bust. The customer may always be right, but some of his demands are unreasonable and he can't always have everything he wants. In Rooney's case, the story had a positive outcome. In the case of the customer, for the good of the business you sometimes have to let one of them go.
Bruce Townsend of E-Commerce software specialist, Sellerdeck. Originally published on UtalkMarketing.com