A discount, referral from a friend, Facebook, or an online search may have introduced your brand to some of its best customers, but after the thrill of the first transaction is gone, it’s the emotional connection that will keep your customers loyal and telling the world how much they love you. And emotions run high, especially when it comes to customer service. According to Accenture’s 2012 Global Consumer Pulse Research:
- 63% of consumers point to service as the most important factor in their choice of a brand.
- 44% have higher customer service expectations than they had a year ago.
- 65% report that one of their top service frustrations is unfriendly or impolite agents.
- 70% say they are likely to switch brands if they deal with agents who are unable to answer their questions.
- 62% have actually switched brands in the past year due to poor customer service.
Just like in personal relationships, keeping a customer relationship going for years takes a lot of work. And the cost of losing customers can take a heavy toll: The cost of poor customer service is estimated at £12 billion annually in the UK, and according to a report by Genesys, poor customer service costs U.S. businesses an estimated $85 billion per year in abandoned purchases or defections.
Customers never want to break up with a brand they like or have been with a long time, but sometimes they feel they’re the only ones investing in the relationship. Here are four reasons your customers will eventually decide to dump you for another brand:
1. You’re Never Available. When customers want to talk, it’s important to be available. Many brands try to syphon service requests and comments through one or two convenient or cost-effective channels, and make it nearly impossible to find another way to get in touch. According to a recent Ovum study of 8,000 consumers from across the globe, the overwhelming majority (74%) use at least three channels when interacting with an enterprise for customer related issues. When customers have a problem or just want to talk, whether that’s at 10pm or on Facebook, your brand needs to be there for support.
2. You Don’t Listen. It’s frustrating when a brand keeps asking through pop-ups and email surveys for a customer’s opinion, feedback and ideas on what it can do better, but never takes action on those things (Read 6 Simple Tips for Collecting Customer Feedback). Even more disappointing is when a customer takes the time to publicly tell a brand thank you, great job, alert them to a problem or voices a concern on their social media properties, yet is never acknowledged. J.C. Penney is an example of a company that learned this the hard way that you should always listen and respond to what your customers are saying, finally issuing a multi-channel advertising campaign to publically thank their customers.
3. You Act Like You’re Better than Them. There has never been a sadder story this year of a brand dismissing one of its biggest fans than the recent PR setback for Nutella. A super fan and longtime customer went above and beyond in showing her love for the brand by organizing a worldwide holiday in honor of Nutella, complete with a social media campaign. What did the brand do to say thanks for her superfan loyalty? It sent her a Cease and Desist letter from parent company Ferrero, which started a social customer backlash against the brand. Talk about a bad breakup.
4. You Don’t Know Anything About Them. Personalization of customer service and the customer experience is becoming a key differentiator for brands. Take for example, Amazon, which remembers what you bought, when you bought it, and suggests other items you might like based on the little things you’ve revealed about yourself through past interactions.
Brands need to use what they know about their customers to improve service. They need to be able to remember the last time they talked with customers, what they talked about, what customer service channels they prefer, and little things that create a WOW experience. A new survey sponsored by Aspect Software notes that when contacting customer service, 64% of responding consumers say they do not feel like they are treated like valued customers, and 65% cite their frustration at having to repeat their account information, their service history and their current problem at various customer service touchpoints.
Take the four points above into consideration when working to build long-term customer relationships.