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Does your organisation know its VIPs?

People holding up happy and sad face signs
People holding up happy and sad face signs
Not all customers are equal....

What do you think of when you hear someone described as a VIP?  If you’re anything like me, the term VIP conjures up images of celebrities in exclusive private clubs quaffing champagne, eating caviar, and trying to avoid the paparazzi!  However, not all VIPs are celebrities, and not all VIPs are easy to identify.  Think about your organisations customers – you’re likely to have a whole range.  If you’re lucky you’ll have some customers some that are “Excellent”, some that are “Good” and hopefully only a few that are “Bad”.

You probably have a great relationship with some customers; they come to you time and time again, and pay their invoices on time.  Others might treat you like a commodity, pay their bills late and drop you at a moment’s notice.  Amongst your best customers, there are likely to be a sub-set of real stars – your real VIPs.  These are your most profitable, sweetest, and most important clients.  To maximise profit, it’s important to focus on the VIPs and treat them well (without forgetting about your other customers of course)!

So what has inspired me to write about VIPs?  Well, I consider myself a pretty good customer for my local train company.  I spend, on average, £2500 per year on train tickets – so you think I’d be a customer they’d want to keep sweet.  In the last 5 years, I have never forgotten or lost my ticket.  Then, one day, on a short train journey (the return fare costing £1.50), I realised I had misplaced my ticket.  I went to speak to the station staff and was treated like an absolute criminal, even though I had actually purchased a ticket!  The front line staff had no way of knowing whether I was a regular, valued customer or not.  That didn’t feel great.  5 years of regular train use, £12,500 of revenue to the train company, and they treat me like dirt!  I walked away with a severe cloud over my head.

What did I do?  Resolve to drive more often, rather than take the train. That single incident will (to a small degree) go straight to the train operating company’s bottom line.  Yet it was totally avoidable!

How would your front line staff react if a good stable customer, or VIP contacted them?  Would they even know they are dealing with a VIP?

The challenge is to define your VIP customers.  The reality is that this varies from organisation to organisation, but is likely to include factors like:

  • Who works in partnership with you? Transactional “tit-for-tat” business can be a necessary evil; it pays the bills.  But transactional clients take up a lot of bandwidth.  If a client views your product or service as a commodity, then chances are they consider it dispensable.  It’s much better when organisations work in partnership, developing relationships over time.  Both organisations give and take, and act in the spirit of collaboration (rather than to the letter of a contract).  You grow together.  These partners are your VIPs.
  • Who creates noise, and who quietly pays and re-orders?  The most visible clients might not be your VIPs.  The people taking up 80% of your time might not be your VIPs.  Hard to believe isn’t it!  However, sometimes VIPs quietly consume your product or service, love it, and re-order time and time again.  It’s easy to forget them and focus on the “noisy” customers – and this is extremely dangerous territory!
  • Who are your advocates?  Who is tweeting great things about you, blogging about you and recommending you via their networks (both in the real world and in social media).  They might have influence beyond their own purchasing power, and if they fall out of love with you, they’ll be just as quick to dis you!
  • Who are your best targeted clients?  Do you have a particular sweet-spot for a specific demographic?  You might find your VIPs in here. 

It’s important for business of all sizes (whether small, midsize or large corporate) to understand who their VIPs are.  A significant enabler for this is data.  Having access to the core metrics and key performance indicators helps you to pick out the VIPs. 

The conclusion:

Decide who your VIPs are, ensure they’re identified, and ensure there are processes in place so your front line staff know who they are!

How does your organization identify its VIPs? What are your views? I’d love to hear from you. Please go ahead and add a comment below.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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