Business Beyond Numbers: AOX’s Authentic Touch (High Net Worth | September 28, 2018)
How can a business stand out from the hordes today, when a world’s worth of options are presented to the customer at the mere tap of a finger? In an age where truth seems to be a malleable matter to be worked over by snake oil salesmen, political agents and anyone with an agenda, how does product marketing penetrate the wall of doubt and suspicion in the face of an increasingly cynical and confused audience?
Perhaps the answers to these questions lie not in fixating on the challenges posed by external and environmental factors that are beyond individual control. Instead, the most successful businesses have strategically turned their attention inwards, concentrating on building brands and brand images that are consistent, committed and transparent in their operations and purposes. They’ve ‘cut through the noise’ by focusing everything that they do on something more essential than profit: their customers.
AOX is a home-grown Singapore company that is thriving today, because of its customer-centered principles and practices. They most recently expanded to larger premises and are growing their number of staff by up to 25%. But what speaks louder and better than these statistics, are the company’s collection of over 250 reviews on its Facebook page. It’s a number rare for an SME of its size, and much less seen among similar competitors’ pages. Almost across-the-board positive, these reviews are posted by AOX’s home user clients, standing testament to the personal, first-name relationships that AOX’s staff have with their customers—one maintained long beyond the moment of sale.
We spoke to AOX’s CEO, Jeffrey Tan who started the alkaline water system business in 2009, and quickly learned that prioritising the needs and well-being of customers has been an effective strategy to grow his business.
“Your customers are human beings who aren’t interested in how much you know. You could have a world of product knowledge, but ultimately, people just want to know how much you really care. And that is something that we try and show them.” This is the advice that Jeffrey often repeats to his staff. He wants caring for the customer to become a matter of heart for everyone in his company, motivating all that they do at work.
Driving home their commitment, is one of AOX’s key selling points for its alkaline water systems. Inspired by Jeffrey’s understanding of the concerns and needs of his primary group of customers, the company gives free annual health checkups to all its clients, documenting the improvements and changes to their overall health after using AOX’s water.
“Most of our home users are those aged forty and above. They are a demographic that is very serious about their health, especially since most health issues tend to start showing and developing when we are in our forties and above. Being able to show them what is happening within their bodies with our health checks, has been transformative to their understanding of their health and lifestyle.”
These annual health checks also turn AOX’s engagement with clients into a long-standing interaction: “When a customer buys an AOX system, it’s really just the beginning of our relationship. Selling our systems are not the end goal but the start of the process of transforming their health. A lot of our competitors like to tell their customers that as long as they drink their water, one will be in good health, which I both agree and disagree with. Yes, you need good water to help you detoxify. But how do you keep your system clean after drinking that? We want to educate and share that we have a good support team to ensure that our customers get all the help they need at every step of the way.” In fact, AOX’s after-sales support team actually makes up 50% of its staff—the largest proportion, in comparison to the sales (30%) and administrative support team (20%).
For AOX, going the extra mile also means understanding that work isn’t simply about completing a task. Even the technician teams are coached to understand that their purpose is more than just fixing issues that customers might face. “Solving a leak in itself, for example, is never enough. There is always an emotional factor for the customer, as their anger stems from the product not working as well as it should,” Jeffrey shares.
Technicians are encouraged to explain to customers why and how an issue might have occurred, while fixing the problem, and clients are given a survey that not only gauges their level of satisfaction at the service provided, but also helps the management to track commendable performances by staff, beyond the office.
The glowing reviews on AOX’s Facebook page also prove how trustworthy the brand is—where transparency and good product service always take precedence. Many come from long-term customers of six years and more, who have themselves become firm advocates for the brand—the best form of marketing there is, in today’s climate.
Since its inception, AOX has eschewed popular mass media marketing or sales gimmicks to grow their sales figures, instead choosing to grow organically by relying on steady word-of-mouth referrals among its users, supplemented by a strong use of social media and presence online.
Prior to the introduction of its roadshow sales team in October last year, word-of-mouth recommendations accounted for an impressive 60% to 70% of AOX’s sales. Today, even with the exponential growth of the business’ reach and sales from roadshows, referral business from existing clients is still a respectable 40% in total sales. While growing through word-of-mouth referrals offers less dramatic growth than widespread mass marketing and the sales gimmicks practised by some of AOX’s market competitors, its steadier growth, one not easily swayed by disruptions in the market, has stood the company in good stead. Relationships built on personal trust, integrity and proven action have resulted in many customers becoming personal friends of Jeffrey and his staff, forming a loyal and constantly growing base for his business.
Inspired by the example of his late father who ran a large provision shop business when Jeffrey was growing up, he shares canny words of wisdom from his father that have shaped his business today: “The measure of success in a man is in the amount of trust those around him place in him. The more there are, the greater the success. But even if others have placed their trust in you—one should not easily place your trust in others.”