Retaining and growing customers is an element of strategy which often gets overlooked by the effort to grow and expand via prospecting activity. As a result, retention becomes an effort that is only really made when churn has already started to take place to stem the tide. Yet, customers are creatures of habit and studies show that 92% ‘It’s personal – and that’s official’, Yonder Digital Group (February 2017) of consumers will stay loyal and increase their business with a company so long as their queries are handled quickly and effectively.
This result highlights the important role played by customer service in retention and development of the customer base. In fact, customer experience as a whole – ranging from difficulties finding contact details, disconnected cross-channel experience and poor customer service – is overwhelmingly (81%) ‘It’s personal – and that’s official’, Yonder Digital Group (February 2017) the reason clients take their business elsewhere. By contrast over 60% of companies confirm that investing in a top-class customer experience is the best strategy to drive an increase in customer lifetime value and loyalty ‘Customer Lifetime Value: Building Loyalty and Driving Revenue in the Digital Age’, Econsultancy Report (April 2014).
Communication therefore plays a critical role in helping customers and companies stay connected and drive loyalty. Yet despite the evidence, far too many companies fall drastically short of customer expectations: Yonder Digital Group recently surveyed 2,000 people as part of their research on the quality of customer communication across a range of industries, from hotels to delivery services and found that, overwhelmingly, businesses are not considered easy to contact and rapid in query or problem resolution ‘The silent treatment: how UK businesses are giving consumers the brush off’, Yonder Digital Group (December, 2017).
Studies have extensively shown that retaining existing customers is far more cost effective than increasing the customer base through prospecting (depending on the industry, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one ‘The value of keeping the right customers, Harvard Business Review (October, 2014)). Since so many consumers have ended relationships with businesses due to poor customer service, it is clear that retaining valuable customers with top class customer experience is critical to remaining profitable.
Another key ingredient in the customer experience and communication mix is of course the communications that take place between customers. These can be Tweets, Facebook posts or comments on Instagram and Snapchats. Because they are shared among groups of people that trust each other such as family members, friends or even influencers, they have a significant impact on customers’ perceptions of the brand and absolutely cannot be ignored. Studies confirm that 88% of consumers have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision ‘Customer Service And Business Results: A Survey Of Customer Service From Mid-Size Companies’, ZenDesk Whitepaper (April, 2013). Developing a lasting relationship with clients therefore not only leads to brand loyalty, but brand advocacy, and what better way to expand than by letting your existing customers pave the way?
But businesses cannot afford to become complacent and need to ensure that their customer experience meets customer expectations. In order to ensure this is the case we’ve developed a simple three-point mantra:
- Listen to customers. Research has shown that 70% of businesses that deliver exceptional customer experience use customer feedback to further improve it‘50 Important Customer Experience Stats for Business Leaders’, The Huffington Post (December, 2017). Technology can play a critical role in helping businesses analyse data from a number of channels – be it online, telephone or other sources – to help them understand their customers through ongoing analysis of chatter, purchasing patterns and consumer behaviour.
- Provide an omnichannel presence. In a world where consumers are always connected via smartphones or other devices, businesses need to match their need to reach out to them at any time and over any medium, but still be certain to get the same excellent level of customer service. By providing customers with a variety of customer service options, such as automated online chatbots, telephone services, email, etc., customers know that they can reach a business through their preferred method of communication.
- Make communications seamless. But it’s not enough to simply be contactable across all channels. Really outstanding customer service provides customers with a continuous and organic experience across channels.
With these tools in place businesses can finally leverage the power of CX to increase customer lifetime value, drive loyalty and retention and impress new customers with the positive reviews and comments users make to their friends and entourage along the way.