During the last six months our consultants have received an unprecedented number of questions from customers asking, “how do I increase customer loyalty?” It seems that Covid, and lockdown, has lead to many people looking at their finances and evaluating their current suppliers of utilities, insurance and mobile services.
Which makes a lot of sense: when you are working from home or have more time on your hands, you start to feel the impact of any poor service and start to question the value you are getting.
So, we asked our experts, consultants who have decades of experience designing retention schemes for service providers, to tell us the secret to increasing customer loyalty.
Stop selling, start listening
People hate the hard sell. It’s always been true, and it’s more true today when they can shop at their own pace online. They especially hate it when they’re already customers and already have a relationship with your company. In fact, we have a few teams here that could be
described as “sales” teams, but they don’t really spend much time selling. If you were to shadow them for the day, you’d see they spend most of their time listening.
They spend a lot of time talking to our clients about what’s going in their business, what they need, and then giving suggestions on how to help – not necessarily trying to sell them a product. To this end, we hire people with empathy and people skills to listen and advise, not just do the relentless, pushy sell.
TOP TIP: Prioritise personal service, an authentic interest in helping your customers achieve or succeed, and a passion for what your company does well.
Processes are important but they can’t be prioritised at the expense of quality customer service. Think about the last time you had to on hold for ten minutes, only to end up talking to someone [or a machine] sticking rigidly to a script. It’s unpleasant, it’s frustrating, and worst of all it makes your customers feel like they’re not important to your company.
This harks back to the listening we talked about earlier. People want a chance to explain their questions, problems, or concerns to someone. Having a chance to just say the problem to you is part of the solution. Once it’s out in the open, customer support teams can acknowledge it and be their advocate in fixing it.
There’s no replacement for that sensation. That you have someone on your side, who is willing to side-step rigid process, investigate your question, then give you answers and solutions. And there’s definitely no automated system that can replicate it.
TOP TIP: empower your front line teams to fix problems, quickly without having to go through lengthy processes.
Everyone that interacts with your customers affects retention, not just your frontline sales staff. After all, your customers aren’t only going to be talking to your sales teams. Even if you manage clients through an account manager model like we do, there’s more contact points than just your rep.
In our case, our clients talk to our finance department, they talk to our business support teams, and their customers or employees talk to our end-user support teams about our products.
These interactions all add up to create a perception of your company in your clients’ eyes. What’s the good in having knowledgeable, empathetic, passionate sales staff if your clients find your finance department unbearable? Or if your customer support teams make your customers feel second best? Or if someone’s staff and customers are endlessly dissatisfied with their rewards?
Just as importantly – if you operate an account manager model like we do, how are your client contacts going to see your business if their interactions with you revolve around problems like the ones we just outlined?
Everyone that interacts with your clients’ needs to understand their role in customer retention, and just as vitally, they need to be equipped with the flexibility and skills to fully take part in that role.
TOP TIP: Recognise all employees for their contributions in keeping your customers coming back.
Embrace the little things
Make the details matter. They matter to your customers. When you look at what makes customers loyal to big brands like Apple, one of the things anyone can replicate is paying attention to the little things. Quality of packaging, the design of their stores, the training and motivation of their staff.
Now we can’t all be as fashionable as Apple, but we can act like Apple, all the same.
You can make sure your hold music isn’t rubbish. You can make sure your receptionists are equipped to make your guests comfortable when they visit. You can make sure your customers don’t have to repeat their information and their query when they pass between departments on the phone. You can make sure you remember orders and follow-up with customers when you’d expect to hear from them.
TOP TIP: Paying attention to small details doesn’t just add up to a better experience for your customers, it shows your investment and interest in how your customers experience your company. It all adds up.
Not to blow our own trumpet, but we found that one of the key things that keeps Appreciate Business Services clients coming back is that our products offer a consistent experience. Our customers come to us, and whether they plump for our digital rewards, gift cards or our vouchers, they get something that lets their customers, or their employees, pick a great gift for themselves.
By doing that, we spare every company that comes to us from the need to warehouse a huge selection of gifts for every conceivable audience they interact with. This key component is the same every time our customers come back to get in touch.
Our products, combined with our approach to customer services, is a huge part of what brings our clients back year-in, year-out.
TOP TIP: Whenever your customers come to your business, they need a consistent, repeatable experience.
Over to you
Like many “secret” recipes, it’s not all that secret. We’re not MI6, we don’t have Q sitting in a lab in central Liverpool cooking up secret gadgets and techniques that no one else can access.
Doing the simple things really well, will keep customers coming back year after.
If you want to talk about it retaining more of your customers, get in touch. We’re always happy to listen and talk.