Creating customers for life in a digital world

Crafting a pleasant customer experience is a great first step to keeping clients on board, but a true digital organisation aims to go one better – by creating a customer for life.

Johannesburg, 02 Oct 2019
Vishal Chopra, head of Field Marketing, Freshworks.
Vishal Chopra, head of Field Marketing, Freshworks.

The best way to differentiate your business is through an exceptional customer experience (CX), since happy customers inevitably mean not only repeat business from these individuals, but also via the recommendations they give to others. Of course, providing a CX of this nature requires ensuring customers have a seamless and effortless experience across all potential touchpoints.

Vishal Chopra, head of Field Marketing at Freshworks, points out that while a good individual CX may bring the customer back again, businesses need to be thinking beyond this. Their goal should be to create a customer for life (CFL), in a similar manner to how a brand like Apple affords users the opportunity to not merely buy a product, but to essentially buy into a lifestyle.

“CFL organisations are those that understand that an effortless customer experience is key to keeping the client affiliated to their brand. Of course, if it was that easy, every company would be doing it. A good example of how many organisations fail at this is the automated ‘help’ menu that often – instead of making life easier for the customer – actually often creates more stress and frustration for them than it solves,” he says.

“What makes this terrifying for business is the statistics that indicate that 70% of customers leave after a single bad experience. If three out of every four customers leave after one bad experience, the principle of CFL has never been more critical. The real challenge of CFL is that customers also often have a buying journey that crosses multiple touchpoints, such as Web, e-mail, mobile apps, telephone and even WhatsApp, and creating a genuinely ‘wow’ experience is very difficult across these varied touchpoints.”

Chopra states that based on Freshworks’ own experiences with customers, the company has identified four engagement rules that a true CFL organisation can rely on.

“The first of these is ‘anywhere engagement’. The modern customer is empowered by the multitude of devices and channels available, and as such, expects to be serviced when they want, and how they want – regardless of time or date. Moreover, some 67% of customers utilise at least three different channels to engage with a business. This means you need to have customer service available 24/7, and you must enable your teams, systems and processes in a way that ensures they are available across all touchpoints, at all times.”

“The second level is ‘collaborative engagement’, which is all about pulling in team mates with the necessary skills to directly solve an issue via deep collaboration. What this will avoid is the negativity created by transferring them to the right person, only for the customer to have to repeat their entire problem over again. In a collaborative engagement, you would stay with the customer and take them across to the right person, helping to solve the problem in a thoroughly collaborative environment.”

The third rule focuses on ‘contextual engagement’, continues Chopra, which is where things start to get more technical, as here the service provider wants to be able to anticipate customer needs, thanks to a 360° view across sales, marketing and support.

“It is worth noting that while 76% of customers believe the agents they talk to are aware of their history, only 31% of them feel these agents actually have the right context. What you want is an agent who not only knows the answers to the customer problems, but is also aware of which channels they have reached out on before, what the current status of the problem is, and – most crucially – must be able to follow these customers across additional touchpoints.

“The last rule focuses on ‘predictive engagement’, which is where the true CFL elements come in. Here, one moves away from simply reacting to customer issues and instead starts to leverage new technologies like artificial intelligence, Internet of things, big data and advanced analytics to understand what they want before even they do.”

By offering these customers relevant, targeted offers, or delivering a gift voucher related to an item in their shopping trolley, or even merely recommending other products they may be interested in, the business can begin to build the kind of relationship with customers that sees them evolve into CFLs.

“There is a widely reported argument that it costs significantly less to retain existing customers than it does to acquire new ones, and a customer for life not only costs you less than chasing after new clients, but offers the added financial benefits that come with servicing a customer over the entire lifespan of their journey with you. After all, happy customers tell more people about their experiences, they tend to spend more and also do so more frequently than those who do not receive adequate levels of service.

“Therefore, it is in your organisation’s own best interest to ensure you offer customers an experience that is anytime and anywhere, collaborative, contextual and – most vitally – proactive in terms of service delivery. Achieve this, and it will be a simple matter to transition your happy customer into a customer for life,” he concludes.

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