How To Keep Customers Loyal While Your Company Grows
Congratulations on the growth of your small business!
The US Small Business Administration defines small businesses as companies with fewer than 500 employees. That could look like three people in a garage or 499 people spread across a large office. It’s no wonder that specific details, especially objectives around customer experience, get lost in the process. Growth is a numbers game. With growth comes more customer requests — but for some companies, it means lagging on service. As a CX leader, this period of growth is a valuable time to take stock of your support strategy before operations become siloed, and communicated information is less useful. In the same way that the quality of a product can suffer when it scales too quickly, so too can the quality of customer service.
There are, of course, some tried–and–tested ways to retain customers while you grow. Reducing customer effort is a great place to start.
What is customer effort?
Customer effort, sometimes calculated as a Customer Effort Score, details how much effort a customer exerts in support scenarios. The logic here is simple: High customer effort amounts to lousy customer experience. Bad experiences reduce customer loyalty and increase churn. Better CX leads to higher customer loyalty and higher revenue — in fact, 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue, according to Forbes’ Blake Morgan.
If a business is only hearing from customers when they have a problem, there’s already a layer of friction. Moving away from a reactive model of customer support to a model that anticipates customer needs is crucial. Growing companies can reduce customer effort – thus increasing revenue — by adopting new, modern service channels, engaging proactively with their customers, and checking in with their customers. It’s bad practice to force customers to repeat themselves as they engage with your support team.
Can I please speak to a manager?!
Growing companies should not rely on software that keeps customer data in silos. According to Smarter with Gartner, low-effort customer experiences reduce operational costs by decreasing up to 40% of repeat calls, 50% of escalations, and 54% of channel switching. If your customer has access to self-service channels, or agents have visibility into conversation history across all support channels, the customer will exert less effort to solve their problem.
[Related reading — Reduce customer effort by identifying customer service objectives]
The same data relates the idea that 94% of customers with low-effort interactions intend to repurchase from these companies. That number drops to 4% when customers experience high-effort interactions. The connection between low effort and high loyalty is clear — but what is customer loyalty, and what does it look like in practice?
What is customer loyalty?
In an episode of The Office — a sitcom famous for its workplace best practices — titled “Customer Loyalty,” Dwight Schrute gives a presentation on loyalty to his colleagues. “What is it?” he asks. “Can you hold it in your hand? Can you nudge it with your finger? Can you dump it on a woman? No. Why? Because it’s an idea.”
Heavy stuff. Susan Lahey writes in Relate, “If what exists between a customer and a brand is a relationship, instead of a series of transactions, both sides have to consider what they’re bringing to that relationship.” Customer loyalty is the result of this relationship — and a critical customer service objective.
Mina Aiken, former head of CX at menswear brand Taylor Stitch, explains, “It usually takes a few consistently excellent experiences for a customer to feel connected and loyal to the brand. That awesome experience starts from the very first touchpoint, whether it be web, email, brick and mortar, or Instagram, and carries all the way through to when they’re actually wearing our product.”
Customer loyalty is a factor in every step of the customer journey. Similarly, every point of the customer journey is a touchpoint for a conversation. In a now-famous 2010 piece from the Harvard Business Review titled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers,” a strong correlation is made between customer loyalty and customer effort. In a 2020 followup, Rob Markey writes that companies who focus on customer loyalty drive higher revenue, but loyalty is a metric that’s often under prioritized. Loyal customers spend 67% more than new customers. New customers are also harder to acquire. The first step to generating customer loyalty is to create a holistic, scalable CX and support strategy — and those are not just buzzwords.
Are you reactive or forward-thinking?
Every interaction businesses have with customers is a conversation — but are support teams listening and acting on what they learn? As mentioned above, if companies only hear from customers when there’s a problem, their support strategy is likely a bit thin.
Customer experience, customer loyalty, and customer effort are not vanity metrics. Putting the customer at the center is actionable, and it starts with a forward-thinking support strategy. Growing businesses need to be informed of the impact of these metrics so that the organization understands the clear link between support and revenue. For many companies, these metrics are new-age afterthought.
Figuring out what does and doesn’t work for a team requires a little bit of trial and error. Maybe it doesn’t make sense for customers to call a particular company if they overwhelmingly prefer self-service or messaging. Perhaps a brand’s target demographic doesn’t know the difference between Facebook and Netflix and would much prefer to talk on the phone. Similarly, using existing insight to anticipate where customers might experience friction and creating supportive content to help them — whether that’s for a help center article or part of a proactive email campaign — can help triage queries and reduce support volume. Look back, take stock, and think forward.
[Related reading — Quantifying the business impact of customer service]
Like an episode of The Office, company growth never takes a straight path. At the end of the aforementioned “Customer Loyalty” episode, an exasperated Dwight says, “business is about relationships,” then asks, “the key to relationships is what?”
“Loyalty,” his colleague replies. What can we learn from this?
- Take customer effort seriously. Be where your customers expect you to be and watch your revenue climb.
- Listen to your customers. Every interaction is a conversation filled with invaluable insight. Collect it and act on it.
- Don’t react — plan and anticipate.
- Never treat your customer relationships as something entirely transactional.
- Nurture your customers along the entire lifecycle. Don’t wait for your first touchpoint to be an escalation.
If Dwight Schrute can see the impact of loyalty in his relationships — and how it carries into business — so can you and your growing organization.
Customer experience should never be an afterthought. Learn more about how customer support impacts your businesses by checking out our research here.
Jesse is a Content Marketing Associate at Zendesk, a customer service platform that develops software to empower organization and customer relationships. Zendesk serves more than 150,000 customers across hundreds of industries in over 30 languages.Check out Zendesk
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