Not long ago, loyalty in customer service was fairly simple, both in meaning and in method. Great brand name? This alone will inspire loyalty. Solid rewards programme? That’ll keep your customers close.
That was then. Now is… a lot more complicated. Customer loyalty takes more time and a sophisticated level of dedication to earn, as well as to keep. And loyalty definitely matters: Recent Zendesk research shows that 74% of customers feel loyal to a particular brand or company, and 52% of customers report going out of their way to buy from their favourite brands. That same research underlines how swiftly loyalty can be lost: roughly half of customers will go elsewhere after one bad experience — that figure leaps to 80 per cent after more than one bad experience.
Yes, understanding what drives human choices, motivations and preferences takes work, and it’s not as straightforward as, say, choosing a company to deliver your goods or establishing a returns policy. But there are actionable choices that drive loyalty. Read on for three such best practices.
Cultivate seamless conversations
Customers aren’t interested in terms like omnichannel. But companies should be interested — actually, must be. The experience that omnichannel service can provide is a massive differentiator, and a key tool in the cultivation of loyalty. What omnichannel means to a company is offering all the channels that customers expect for communicating with you — email, chat, phone, text. For the customer, this creates the trust and comfort that they can communicate with you in the ways they actually like to communicate, the same ways in which they already talk to friends and family.
Cultivating seamless conversation transcends tools—it’s also achieved through how your company works together internally and behind the scenes. Sales and support teams, in particular, should work as partners to connect early customer interactions with later ones, as described in the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020. It turns out these two teams collaborate a great deal already, according to that research. As sales leaders expect both revenue growth and team growth, companies need to put data to work across teams, using shared tools to engage with customers from the initial sale and throughout their experience with a product or service. When a customer contacts you, they don’t care if they’ve reached the right department or not. The whole company has to be on the same page about the customer, and ready to help them, without making them repeat their story or passing them from agent to agent (your customers hate this).
Harness customer data
Everything you need to work out what your customers want from your products and your service is probably available to you, and possibly already pouring in. We’re talking about data, of course. Never have companies had the benefit of so much data. Among other benefits, data can feed a proactive engagement strategy: rather than always responding to customers out of necessity, getting in touch with customers proactively gives businesses the freedom to make their own decisions about how their customers can be engaged, and can improve your ability to satisfy them. What’s more, support data can shine a bright light into your customers’ experience—important for retention and building loyalty.
But all that data can feel like an unholy flood if it’s not under control and put to strategic use. Good news: your customers are on board with a strategic and effective use of their data. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 shows that customers prefer companies to keep track of their data if it leads to better experiences, with more than 75 per cent of customers wanting the personalisation which comes with better insights.
With an open and modern CRM platform, companies can link data sources to create and offer personalised service based on actual customer preferences. Zendesk findings show companies that leverage the most data see 36 per cent faster resolutions and a 79 per cent reduction in waiting time, while solving four times the customer requests.
Embrace artificial intelligence and pair it with self-service
Consumers don’t always realise it, but AI is very much part of our now, not a plan for the future. AI excels in the kind of work that frees human agents for more complex projects and problem solving—deflecting tickets via chat bot, for instance. Smart companies also prize AI for its ability to reduce the time agents spend on answering requests, and for efficiently scaling customer engagement. Recent Zendesk research shows that high-performing customer experience teams are twice as likely to embrace AI, incorporating the technology across more channels and interactions with customers. Yet Zendesk’s report shows that only 37 per cent of customer experience teams are using AI, according to customer experience managers.
That research uncovered a compelling link between success, AI use and self-service. It turns out that high-performing customer experience teams in the study also pair AI-powered Answer Bot with a self-service strategy — 84% of managers who use Answer Bot say they also have a strategy to continually add to their self-service resources; and companies using Answer Bot also have the best-developed knowledge bases in terms of articles, contributing agents, categories, and a higher self-service ratio, which compares self-service content views to total ticket volume.
The reason is no mystery — your customers want fast, efficient resolutions to their issues, and they would largely prefer to take care of their own problems whenever possible. Putting AI and self-service tools to use in your support is part of another best practice: listening to what your customers want.