Customer engagement is rapidly becoming a strategic business tool that can be used to help retain, win, and bring back old customers, says Damian Traynor, marketing director, RR Donnelley Global Document Solutions. But how can companies deliver a positive experience for each and every customer?
In today's business world, "customer engagement" incorporates a diverse mix of channels including call centres and web sites, but now businesses also need to think about blogs and social networking.
Even though most people agree that a positive customer experience should form the core of a company's sales strategy in all of these areas, many businesses still don't seem to understand the power that the customer experience has in terms of satisfaction and retention.
For companies that want to prevail in today's dynamic and ultra competitive market, it is essential that customers' needs and preferences remain at the very centre of their customer management strategy. As such, successful businesses need to make sure that they make every effort to communicate with their customers effectively, take note of their feedback, and respond accordingly.
In the current economy, with major organisations facing reduced revenue, declining profitability, and a reduction in employees, why would any company fail to take whatever reasonable action necessary to earn the continued patronage and loyalty of their current client base?
After all, the risks are real. Companies that ignore the preferences of their customers, even at an individual level, could alienate them and damage the company's bottom line. Customer service analysts at TeleFaction have confirmed this theory in a recent report, which claims that 70% of the buying experience is based on how the customer feels they are being treated, and that seven out of 10 customers who switch to a competitor do so because of poor service.
The delivery of relevant, finely-tuned customer communications is therefore vital in order for companies to gain a competitive advantage over their business rivals. In fact, the customer experience has now become an even bigger factor than cost when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
Even with identical competing products, low price is still the dominant factor in the buying decision only 15 percent of the time, according to research published on the BNET web site.
So what does this mean for the business? For a start, if a company is bombarding customers with non-stop promotional messages, then it's probably generating more resentment than revenue. However, there are fleeting times (and ways) in which customers will want to hear from a supplier. For example, when they experience a major milestone in their life. If the company doesn't engage with them at important moments like these, it risks losing them.
This kind of personalised approach can push customer service from the ordinary to the extraordinary. In order to make this leap, however, businesses will need to build an understanding of what key events could trigger a customer’s interest in receiving information from them.
The company will then be in a much better position to create the right message, in the right format and very importantly to send it at just the right time. For example, if a customer submits a change-of-address request, the business could send a promotional offer for a product that would be useful to someone who has just moved house.
The channel being used to communicate is also important here. Research has revealed that consumers spend an average of forty five seconds reading their monthly bank statements. By comparison, a piece of direct mail attracts their attention for less than ten seconds. This highlights the fact that transactional documents, such as statements, invoices and contracts, receive more attention from customers than other items that are sent in the post.
The economic downturn makes this kind of tailored customer contact even more important, as consumers who feel under financial pressure tend to be more careful with their choice of suppliers.
For this reason, companies should resist the urge to focus on cost reduction alone, and should instead be investing in a customer engagement strategy that will not only help them to survive in a difficult market, but which will also put them in a stronger position to grasp emerging opportunities as the economy improves.
With an individualised approach, based on an deep insight of each customer, the quality of each interaction can be transformed into a strategic business tool that can be used to anticipate and respond to customer requests more effectively, and also to improve customer retention by building better (and more profitable) customer relationships through relevant, timely communications.
As a result, businesses will much more likely keep their existing customers during these tough economic times, whilst also attracting new customers for the future.
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