The Olympics generate levels of pride and loyalty to our country in ways rarely seen with other events. Just the idea of belonging to something bigger, rooting for athletes who do their best to represent the United States as winners, makes this global event worth investing in. Wouldn’t you want that level of investment, energy and time from your clients on a regular basis? Of course you would, which begs the question – Why don’t you have great customer engagement?
In a recent study, employees from Twitter and several other organizations designed an experiment to review customer service interactions via social media in the airline and wireless carrier industries. While we recognize that these industries are fraught with challenges, the results showed that receiving a response, any response, increased the customer’s willingness to pay more later, even in cases where customers were aggrieved. Think about that for a moment. Customers who were really frustrated were pleased to receive a response. Customers who received an actual answer to their issue were elated. Both were willing to engage with brands later and increase their purchases.
If you apply this logic beyond the social media channels and into other elements of customer experience, you find that the same applies – customers want a response. They want to feel important to a brand and to receive answers to their questions and challenges in a timely manner. The focus on how your customer interacts with your brand from beginning to end is key to creating loyalty.
Tim Houlne, CEO of Humach, understands the power of brand loyalty, and provides his insights on where brands do well and where they go wrong.
“I believe customers gain the same type of loyalty we have with our Olympic teams with companies they love,” says Houlne. “Two that come to mind are Costco and Amazon. I’ve personally had amazing experiences with both, which not only made me loyal, but also a promoter.”
Customer Engagement Metrics Won’t Get You a Medal
Organizations have tried to gauge customer loyalty through various metrics, including most recently the Net Promoter Score (NPS). However, Houlne believes these do not accurately represent the customer’s emotional connection.
“We are in need of a more effective way to measure emotional connection to your brand. In my experience, organizations become attached to a Net Promoter Score that has morphed into something besides a loyalty measurement,” says Houlne. “Additionally, brands that ask you how they did are also losing their focus on loyalty. The ones that ask if you would give them a five out of five on a survey are often the brands that are doing the worst job of customer engagement.”
Improving customer experience improves brand loyalty. Find out what trends are impacting this dynamic in our report The Time Is Now: Why You Can’t Afford to Wait to Implement New Customer Experience Solutions.
There are ways to improve, which Houlne believes must focus on policies and processes.
“It’s very simple. Deliver information to customers via the channel they prefer, provide current FAQs and other means of self-service, ensure I can get the answer the first time I reach out and have a solid customer portal,” says Houlne. “Most importantly, make sure that your policies and processes are set up to focus on brand loyalty and good engagement. That’s a major issue across all organizations – bad policies and processes.”
A good example is in the wireless industry. It is typical to hear complaints about how you have to leave your existing carrier and then return in order to get the best deal. For those loyal customers who have been there for years, there is little to no opportunity to get the same pricing structure they use to entice new customers.
It seems that in many industries customer acquisition is more important than customer engagement and retention. This is puzzling since everyone is aware that the cost of acquiring a new customer is greater than retaining a great customer, so why the focus on acquisition?
“It’s more short-term thinking. There is a lack of strategic alignment and understanding of the customer,” says Houlne. “There is the idea that sales and support are unrelated, when in fact the entire process that engages your customer should be aligned and utilizing the same data.”
Don’t Wait Four Years for Olympic Level Customer Loyalty
Premier athletes don’t show up at the Olympics having only practiced for a few months. They dedicate years of their lives to get to that level. The same is true of organizations that showcase the engagement needed to create brand loyalty – Zappos, Amazon, Netflix or Costco. These organizations utilize every tool available to give them a leg up. Just as athletes cross-train, these companies deploy machine learning, proactive support, predictive offers and across the board engagement.
“Rather than treating sales and support as separate entities, combine them so that the customer can be happy with the product, the communication, the outreach and the support,” says Houlne. “Now you’re focused on loyalty and the lifetime value of the customer.”
For those organizations that have gaps to close, making these types of adjustments may be viewed as disruptive to the organization. How do you ensure the best processes and procedures? What tools do you deploy? How do you decide the best course of action?
“The key is to start. How does automation improve the experience? Where can you improve self-service? To answer these questions, organizations need to incubate to find the best solutions,” says Houlne. “I’ve been in meetings where decisions are being made that will radically shift an organization’s customer engagement with no testing and no idea what the end result will be. That’s never going to work.”
Humach Labs was created to provide a way for organizations to incubate potential technologies, processes and solutions without negatively impacting their organization.
“There is a realistic, integrated approach to customer experience that will provide strategic alignment and ultimately brand loyalty,” says Houlne. “To get there requires understanding what will and won’t work across the entire organization. That means testing technology and processes and then reporting on lessons learned. Don’t spend money on deploying something if you don’t know it will work.”
Customers demand a great experience. They understand their loyalty has value. Don’t guess what will make your customers happy. Use Humach Labs to test, review and understand the impact to your customers and your organization. Contact us today to get started and improve your chances of success.