In our current business environment, your competition is only a click, tweet or like away. Customer loyalty is now a key attribute in any business strategy. Your customers have 24-hour access to information about you and your brand. UK Key Account Director Sarah Kilmartin, strives to always provide our clients with an excellent journey and of course one of her goals is to create customer loyalty. I sat down with Sarah and discussed strategy and the workplace environment, to find out more about customer loyalty and how this affects, employee satisfaction, end user adoption, workplace engagement and relationships with customers and suppliers.
The customer experience
According to research by Walker Info, by 2020, customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator.
Sarah explains how this is a huge benefit and opportunity to businesses.
People buy from people. People buy experiences.
Yes, they want a technical solution that meets their core goals, but ultimately it is the overall Customer Experience that turns a happy customer into a loyal customer. This opens great opportunities for companies as the right approach and a desire to create these experiences can greatly increase their chances of not only attracting but retaining customers and reducing churn. Expectations continue to grow, none more so than in digital products, and it is through having an approach which puts the customer at its core and improve their experiences that companies can set themselves apart from the rest.
Personalising the experience and truly understanding needs and pain points is just part of a great customer experience. Making a customer’s interactions with both your products and services as easy and seamless as possible, delivering the unexpected, and having empathy are all key aspects of what makes a great experience. This is achieved through consistent interactions, integrated experiences, and empowering employees to give the best possible service.
40% - 50% of companies haven’t introduced a new vendor in the last 5 years. ~ B2B
Sarah discusses the impact of this statistic and if it's because of Customer Loyalty, supplier demand, or cost for businesses:
Implementing a new software solution is only in part about the solution itself and brings change management to the forefront. The impact on staff and process changes can often be seen to outweigh the benefits of change, it can be very costly and time consuming to change processes and systems. This is why truly understanding the customer’s need, wants, challenges and providing them a clear and smooth on boarding process is so critical.
It’s about supporting and reassuring the customer and ensuring they can visualise and ultimately realise the benefits the solution can offer. As people, we often have a fear of change, we become comfortable no matter how difficult or cumbersome the current process or software may be. By focusing firmly on the outcome of change and the benefits rather than the process of change can engage customers more and supporting the change process both from a business and individual perspective
A smooth customer journey
67 per cent of consumers list bad customer experience as one of the primary reasons for churning, according to Kolsky. This creates a big responsibility on Sarah's shoulders to ensure the customer journey is smooth.
Sarah shares some top tips on how to create that perfect customer journey:
The journey a customer takes with your company is crucial to their relationship with your company. Expectations must be met, and wherever possible, exceeded. However, in real life we can expect challenges, and it is true that how you adapt and handle these can put you ahead of the competition.
The starting point is always knowing the customer, understanding their motivations and the outcomes they desire. Personas are a great tool to really delve into these aspects and can also help your whole team truly understand the customers, particularly non-customer facing staff. The next stage is to really explore the current journey a customer takes across all stages and departments. Analyse each touchpoint to see if the customer’s goals are being met and how they felt about the experience. Emotions can often be ignored yet these are the key differentiator.
Once you have analysed the current journey you can look to ways this can be improved. This could be really taking a true omni-channel approach, focussing on key milestones along the customer journey or creating new initiatives. They key is the whole organisation buys into the concept of great customer experiences and can see how their area can have a great impact on overall customer satisfaction. It is also important that the business can see the benefits of implementing a truly customer-centric approach and how it ultimately impacts the bottom-line. Use analytics to back-up the work. This could include using NPS (Net Promoter Score) to show improvement, increased revenue because of particular initiatives or reduced churn rates. Finally, if expectations aren’t met or if something goes wrong there is nothing wrong with apologising and providing you give a plan how to move forward the customer relationship can be retained and in some cases broadened.
Items are personally-chosen to create stronger connections
Items that are personally-chosen can create stronger connections - 79 per cent of consumers felt brands need to demonstrate that they understand and care about them before they are going to consider purchasing. - study by Wunderman. The retail industry can easily evoke these feelings of personal connections, but for B2B selling a service or product it can be more difficult.
Sarah pinpoints how B2B can create the personal connection with service and product.
50 per cent of every buying decision is driven by emotion, so creating a personal connection with your customers is vital. And this comes down to understanding your customer’s needs, strategy and requirements. In my experience, there are five core elements which will help to create the personal connection with services and products:
- Empathy - Your customers need to see you have empathy and truly understand their pain points and requirements.
- Personality - This is important to form relationships, being able to show your personality through your service, and makes you more relatable.
- Be genuine - People buy from people and being true to your company values and being authentic and real is the best way to approach customer and relationship building.
- Learn to listen - This is key, being able to listen to your customers’ needs and wants will help you develop and shape a plan together more effectively.
- Empathy - Customers love companies who care, research from the Customer Thermometer shows customers want businesses who demonstrate: Caring about me, caring about the world, understanding me, being like me, being made to feel special.
*Special thank you to Sarah Kilmarten, UK Key Account Director at Condeco for her contribution to this article.