Marketers know that winning customers is only half the battle; retaining them includes a slew of other challenges. It often takes only one negative experience to lose a customer. But given that acquiring a new customer costs six to seven times more than retaining an existing customer, it’s worthwhile.
However, it can take several months or years before a customer becomes profitable. Improving customer loyalty should be a priority, otherwise those customers—and profits—you worked so hard to win could vanish. But, are you keeping your customers happy? Here are key questions organizational leaders should ask themselves when assessing their strategies for customer satisfaction and loyalty.
1. Do you really know your customer?
Creating a unified view of your customer that is shared across the organization is critical. When customers reach out to you, do you know who they are? Do you know how long they’ve been your customer, what they’ve bought from you, where they are, and other details? Loyalty programs are an effective way to keep track of your customers, but associates must also be given the tools and training to properly greet returning customers.
For example, United Airlines is giving its attendants iPhones loaded with a customer service app that provides basic customer information to improve how they interact with passengers. With this information, an attendant could wish a passenger a happy birthday or congratulate someone on reaching a certain number of frequent flyer miles. Sometimes the smallest things can make a customer feel special and appreciated.
Additionally, biometric tools that are built into smartphones such as fingerprint scanning and voice recognition help people become “known customers” more easily by allowing brands to quickly identify them. Known customers can be treated and served up more relevant content and customer experiences.
2. Are you letting customers help themselves?
Acknowledging customers’ preferences is critical. For instance, there are times when customers don’t want the high-touch, white glove treatment; they just want a quick answer. Offering an FAQ section on your website or an IVR system for callers is not enough, however. Savvy companies provide a “fun, interactive experience” through a mobile app, chat service, or other channel that allows customers to get the help they need quickly, in addition to having an enjoyable experience.
And whether you’re providing help through a chat box or a phone call, it is also important to ensure associates are equipped with the right information, such as the customer’s prior actions, website journey, and keyword searches so that the associate can make informed decisions and recommendations.
Online help communities are another good idea. Creating a portal for customer advocates to offer advice and helpful information to other customers of your brand offers numerous benefits. Customer advocates amplify the brand through word-of-mouth marketing and can help solve product or service issues that brands were not even aware of. Remember to thank your customer advocates with special perks like early access to new merchandise or other rewards.
3. Do you have an app strategy?
In today’s mobile-first world, apps are quickly becoming integral to the customer experience. The chances are high that those who choose to download your app are among your most loyal customers. But it’s not enough to offer a bare-bones app. The app can’t just be an extension of your website. If that’s the case, you’ve really missed an opportunity. The app should offer an inherent value that can’t be achieved on the standard website. This ultimately improves the overall customer experience. A helpful app feature, for example, could be one that helps users find your brand’s closest store or offers personalized rewards and coupons based on location or purchase history.
4. Do you have an omnichannel communication strategy?
It is also important to maintain an open dialogue with your customers and allow them to communicate with you. Letting your customers know their opinions matter builds trust. But, remember that customers don’t think in channels; they think in terms of solutions. Therefore, making sure you have the infrastructure in place to track and respond to comments in a timely and seamless manner is the key. Not all customer suggestions are practical, but it’s important to let customers know which suggestions have been implemented. Starbucks, for example, created MyStarbucksIdea.com as a place where customers can submit ideas and see which ones have been put into action.
Customers are a fickle group. Even after putting all of these initiatives in place, some people will still walk away. Regardless, giving customers a reason to return will ultimately pay off.