What do ASOS, Amazon and Pandora have in common? Each of these businesses have consistently high levels of loyalty among UK consumers because they fulfil their brand promises. They deliver, whether that’s providing on-trend fashion quickly and simply or hitting the sweet spot between price and quality.
These are great examples for businesses aspiring to win over customers and thrive off their loyalty, but many will face great difficulty in doing so. Why? Because the old product and price benchmarks are no longer enough to keep customers coming back, especially in the cut-throat UK retail landscape. Retail is now in an age where consumers can buy what they want, where they want and when they want. It’s easier than ever to ditch any sense of loyalty at the first sign of poor product quality or service.
Today’s most successful retailers have honed their focus on customer experience. Not only is this a crucial differentiator, it’s the reason many consumers keep doing business with a company. Customer experience has become the new brand differentiator, both before and after purchase.
As consumers have become increasingly connected, their expectations have multiplied. They want to interact with brands on their preferred channels and on their schedule. Whether contacting by email, phone, Twitter or WhatsApp, customers expect the same high level of on-demand service every time.
A critical phase in any customer journey is when a consumer asks a brand for help, finalising a purchase or resolving a problem. If a business misses these opportunities to connect, or its processes are disjointed, it risks suffering a chronic disconnect and lost loyalty, because second chances are few and far between in retail today.
Achieving a high level of customer experience can be an uphill struggle for brands if their contact centres rely on a complex patchwork of systems, resulting from merged technologies and processes. It’s not possible to simplify the customer experience when the business is still playing channel pinball. If all a company has is interaction history rather than intelligent insight, it can’t offer well-timed and targeted recommendations that make the customer feel like the brand truly knows them.
What we can learn from the blueprint of winning retailers is that they view their contact centre as a value generator, not a cost centre. Leading retailers always put the customer first because they know that loyalty is what will improve profitability in the increasingly competitive marketplace. –.
To achieve a contact centre that provides tangible business benefit will require a level of focused, ongoing investment and technological sophistication. But more importantly, a customer-centric model requires the conviction to promote an open culture, to break down organisational silos and unify objectives to build a solid foundation for implementing new tools and technologies.
A recent Gartner survey found that 81% of marketers expect to compete primarily on customer experience by 2020. Everything about a brand from its marketing, advertising, sales, and customer care factors into the overall experience. Every touchpoint in the journey impacts the decision to forge (or not) a deeper relationship with the brand.
That means every interaction must be easy and frictionless across the customer’s favoured channel. Brands need to, therefore, ensure that there is no repetition of queries when moving from one channel to another or that customers do not experience long wait times or lacklustre service. The second area where organisations can deepen loyalty is by resolving inquiries quickly, by knowledgeable agents each and every time.
Should a business provide a disjointed or a lacklustre experience, it can expect that a customer view of the brand will erode and can lead to a drop in Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and result in a drop in repeat business. Since the advent of social media, consumers are more likely to share bad experiences with their friends and followers.
But, when businesses get it right, customers will do much of the marketing and acquisition for them by sharing their experiences with friends across social channels. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos has never doubted the power of customers who become brand advocates. He is quoted as saying: “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
Growing advocacy, whether through word of mouth or other means, requires businesses to increase and connect the channels through which customers are able to communicate with them.
The variety of channels consumers will use to connect with brands will only grow. That will bring challenges for businesses but will also present opportunities. Ultimately, customers haven’t strayed from what they’ve always wanted: to communicate with businesses conveniently and get their problems solved quickly and easily. More channels bring additional chances for organisations to prove (or hurt) their brand promise. The key is to connect them it to create a seamless journey for the customer that spans their full history – whether they called last month, used chat today or tweet a brand next week. While that may require more technology and tools, the investment will pay off in spades when customers turn into brand evangelists.
Brendan Dykes is director of product marketing at Genesys
Main image: AdobeStock
Author image courtesy of Brendan Dykes/Genesys