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How to keep customers when the going gets tough

How to keep customers when the going gets tough

By Rob Denton, Managing Director, Navigator Customer Management

As the economy enters a downturn, marketers will begin to find that the new clients that were so plentiful during the boom are suddenly nowhere to be found.

As people begin to spend less, the customer pool will shrink, leaving the same amount of companies competing over fewer resources.

Furthermore, the nuisance factor of irrelevant communication, concerns over the environmental impact of direct mail and the diminishing returns as the economy falters are putting marketers under pressure to create more targeted approaches.

As a result, marketers will need to make more effort not only looking outwards, but also in tending to their existing customers.

Too often, companies seem to take their existing customers for granted, despite the fact that they represent their most lucrative market.

Improving your relationship with your existing customers can be a key step towards re-invigorating sales.

Not only does the additional information you posses on current customers make it easier to provide a targeted approach, but it also prevents the waste caused by vast, low-yield campaigns.

One of the simplest ways in which marketers can improve their relationship with customers is to improve their communications channels.

The aim of multi-channel communications is to ensure that contact between the consumer and the business is conducted in the way that suits them best.

Marketers must ensure that customer communication preferences are understood and adhered to. In the first instance, this can be modelled by reference to the demographics of the customer base.

For example, a company marketing stairlifts will probably have more success with direct mail than with a digital campaign. This approach can then be refined according to individual customer preferences.

Yet they must also ensure that the channel chosen is appropriate to the communication.

For example, someone who wants to know the address of their local car dealer may prefer to send an SMS text message or email, but will want to talk to someone on the phone when they discuss the specifications of a new model.

This approach could also be integrated with existing loyalty products. For example, if data show that a customer always does their weekly shop on a Saturday afternoon, a text message sent on Saturday morning to remind them to use their vouchers and bring their loyalty card will both help them to take advantage of their offers and aid integration of the loyalty scheme.

The aim of this adaptation is to ensure that communication with the customer creates the least disruption possible. The more a customer feels that the company is contacting them with relevant material in the way that they want to be contacted, the stronger their loyalty for the brand will grow.

For the slogan of multi-channel communications to become a reality, companies must ensure that not only are approaches adapted to the consumer, but also that the separate channels are joined seamlessly.

There is no point enabling customers to contact you by email if the information is not available to the agent who provides the follow-up call. It is important that not only is the information readily available, but that agents have the training and intelligence to properly leverage this information.

The most detailed customer information will be of no use if the agents in the contact centre do not apply it to a particular commercial context.

Joined-up multi-channel communications can also provide a real boost in driving sales.

Customer enquiries received via email or SMS can be followed up rather than being allowed to disappear unused. Furthermore, customer needs can be anticipated and acted on in the way that suits them best.

For example, someone who bought a car from a dealership a year ago is likely to require a service. A brief text message (or email, if they prefer) will not only remind the customer of something they may have forgotten, but will also give them an easy way of booking it with the dealership’s garage.

Three years later, the same customer may be considering a new model, but may not have begun to research the options. At which point, a phone call to discuss what the customer is looking for and the specifications of models that would suit them could be a key aspect of leading the customer to the sales desk.

However, perhaps the greatest value from increased customer loyalty will be realised when the economy recovers. As disposable incomes rise again, consumers will become more lucrative and those whose loyalty has been carefully cultivate over the preceding downturn will repay the investment many times over.

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