Damian Parker at Quadient describes how companies can win back loyalty and trust by delivering outstanding customer experiences
Consumer trust and loyalty are invaluable for businesses. A good reputation and a belief that they will receive great service is what brings customers back each time; the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, whereas for new customers, that figure drops to 5 – 20%.
However, the past two years have been tough for businesses. Organisations have battled changing guidelines, store, office and branch closures. It’s fair to say that customer experience has suffered somewhat during the pandemic.
In July, the UK Institute of Customer Service revealed complaints about poor service were at their highest level since 2009, and while customers have been understanding of businesses’ hardships during COVID-19, their patience has started to wear thin.
With a drive to digital and the birth of the ‘always-on’ economy, customer demands and expectations have accelerated in the past two years. Not all businesses have been able to keep up and meet this change quickly enough. The need for clear communication with customers is more urgent than ever, and complacency will only see businesses lose ground to competitors.
Breakdown of communication
On the whole, consumers are understanding and will forgive mistakes. This was especially true at the beginning of the pandemic, when businesses had to operate slower or reduced services. However, after a string of bad experiences and nearly two years of disruption, customer loyalty has dwindled.
Recent Quadient research showed 32% of consumers are preparing to abandon businesses that offered poor customer service during the pandemic and switch to a competitor offering a better experience. This is after encountering issues like important post being sent to empty work addresses, call centre delays, and being continually told any customer service problem was ‘due to COVID-19’.
Consumers are not only disappointed by the level of service they receive from businesses. But they are also suspicious of how their data is being used. A slew of high-profile data privacy catastrophes have impacted consumer trust.
When surveyed, 66% of consumers said they do not trust that their data is being stored, managed and used responsibly by businesses; 26% will not share data because of this absence of trust. A lack of consumer confidence in companies’ data safety practices is particularly troubling.
This information is key to powering business’ future digital initiatives – from predicting trends to generating personalised offers based on customer preferences. Reversing the erosion of consumer trust is thus critical to protect brand reputation, retain customers and determine new revenue streams.
Rebuilding the relationship
To win customers back, businesses must transform their communications and provide the best experience possible.
The first step in rebuilding any relationship is recognising accountability. It’s crucial that organisations understand and fix the issues customers have been experiencing, as this demonstrates they are willing to change and shows they have learned their lesson.
Rectifying small but frequent problems can go a long way to addressing customer frustrations. This includes analysing customer data to ensure nobody is contacted with an incorrect name or address, spammed with information they don’t need, and that their contact preferences are respected.
It can be frustrating to receive an important call from the bank at 3 pm on a Wednesday – especially when you’ve stipulated specifically that the best time to call is 6 pm on a Friday.
Businesses must also work to unify their customer service. Whether an agent works in the sales, billing or returns departments, they need immediate access to any data required to handle a customer query to reduce the likelihood of seeming uninformed or unaware.
While this may be the first time an agent is interacting with a customer, they may have been in touch numerous times through different platforms and are simply looking for a solution.
Unifying customer service ensures that customers have consistent and helpful experiences, and shows them the data they share is being used in a beneficial way.
Ultimately, it comes down to communication. If businesses engage with customers in the right way, respect their preferences, and share accurate and timely information, consumer trust can be rebuilt.
New year, new start
Consumers are prepared to forgive and forget if brands are willing to admit their mistakes, learn from them and deliver world-class customer experience. It’s undoubtedly been rough going for businesses in all industries over the past two years.
From enabling a remote workforce overnight, to continuing operations in uncertain times and pivoting to digital, there has been much to contend with. However, there are positives that businesses can build on.
Almost a third (32%) of UK consumers believe businesses have improved how they communicate through social media and other digital channels during the pandemic. As we move into 2022, there is a real opportunity to reset the clock on customer relationships.
Trust and loyalty must be earned, and the businesses that are willing to take accountability for mistakes and transform how they communicate will reap the highest reward.
Damian Parker is Enterprise Manager at Quadient
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com