Fostering the loyalty of your customers is something that many businesses don’t pay enough attention to. In fact, many business relax, or don’t put as much effort into keeping their customers once they have acquired them and that becomes their biggest Achilles heel and the biggest threat to the sustainability of their businesses.
This is supported by research that was conducted by Econsultancy in 2014 (https://econsultancy.com/blog/65339-marketers-more-focused-on-acquisition-than-retention/) where they found that:
- 40% of companies are more focused on customer acquisition than retention;
- 15% are more focused on customer retention; and
- 45% have an equal focus on acquisition and retention.
Given these results, therefore, the first question we have to ask ourselves when thinking about fostering the loyalty of customers is …..Where’s your focus?
Now, if you claim that your focus is on retention and loyalty or is equally split between retention and acquisition then the next thing we should ask is why are our customers leaving and what can we do about it?
The problem is that, when faced with this problem, the first thing that many firms do is to put a loyalty programme in place.
But, research from people like fast.MAP in 2013 (http://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2013/11/33031-loyalty-versus-loyalty-schemes-the-paradigm) and
the Logic Group and Ipsos MORI in 2011 (https://econsultancy.com/blog/8554-consumers-want-discounts-and-special-treatment-in-return-for-loyalty) show that most loyalty schemes don’t work:
- 96% of consumers would be tempted to switch by a good price promotion;
- 20% of consumers would switch if offered a better loyalty programme; and
- Whilst 68% of customers said they were members of supermarket loyalty schemes but only 47% of them said they were loyal.
So, if loyalty programmes have little effect on customer loyalty, what should firms be doing to foster loyalty?
Well, a Pitney Bowes study in 2010 (http://pressroom.pitneybowes.co.uk/preventing-customer-churn/) offers some clues. They looked into the reasons why customers leave and found a range of issues (in order of descending importance):
- Slow customer service
- Late delivery of service
- Doesn’t ask about customer needs
- Not in touch
- Not told about updates and developments
- Call centre can’t answer questions
- Doesn’t recognise my value
- Irrelevant marketing
- Only email queries allowed
- No online self-service
- Low marketing, low visibility
So, based on the Pitney Bowes list here’s three things that you can do to immediately foster more loyalty with your customers:
- Keep your customers informed of progress and developments at all times even if you have nothing new to report or can only report that everything is OK and on track. This is important as it recognises how the mind works and that when we have no new information our minds make stuff up as a result of our anxieties, fears, stresses and all sorts of other negative emotions. Therefore, just because you might think that you have nothing to report doesn’t automatically mean that your customer doesn’t want to hear from you or that you shouldn’t be in touch with them.
- Make sure that your customer service team is equipped to answer every customer question the first time and every time. The sixth most important reason of why customers leave on Pitney Bowes’ list was that the ‘Call centre can’t answer questions’. This is unforgivable and is a basic challenge to every firm to enable their customer service team with the knowledge, skills and tools to be able to provide answers to their customers questions when they have them.
- Many customers want access to online self service tool so make sure that is a part of your customer service strategy. Work conducted by the Corporate Executive Board in 2010 (https://hbr.org/2010/07/why-your-customers-dont-want-t/) found that that 57% of all inbound calls to a contact centre could largely be attributed to a customer not being able to find what they were looking for on a company’s website. Firms need to recognise that their website and how they offer and deliver an online ‘self-service’ option is an increasingly important part of customer service strategy. Not recognising this ignores what customers want.