Have you ever lost a customer and thought to yourself that there might have been a way to avoid this situation?
Then you probably know the importance of a good customer relations strategy.
There are two reasons why having a good strategy is essential. The first is that a dissatisfied customer will leave the brand and potentially damage your corporate image. The second is that it's easier (and cheaper) to retain current customers as acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing customer.
Succeeding in your customer relations can mean three things: reducing contact rates, increasing customer satisfaction and increasing retention rates.
In this article, we will cover 5 tips for optimising your customer relations strategy:
- Always listen to your customers
- Create a fluid omnichannel relationship
- Personalise your customer relations
- Automate recurring tasks
- Promote high added-value tasks
1. Always listen to your customers
If you thought that a dissatisfied customer always complains then you might want to think again. You might be surprised to find out that 96% of dissatisfied customers don’t ever complain. They just simply leave the brand without ever contacting customer service or expressing what has made them desert. And because most of the time you have no clue why they’re leaving, you don’t even get the opportunity to rectify the situation with the hopes of changing their mind. With this in mind, the question then becomes, if dissatisfied customers don’t contact your customer relations team then how do you deal with customer dissatisfaction?
By being proactive and reactive by:
- Encouraging customers to express their dissatisfaction
- Constantly monitoring what’s being said about your brand.
These two tips can become a reality by facilitating the complaints process.
Are you listening to your customers? Do you understand their expectations?
Everyone listens to their customers, at least that’s what many companies claim.
And yet, it seems that your dissatisfied customers don’t get in touch with your customer service department. The reason behind this behaviour might be because:
- They don't know how to get in touch with customer service
- They don’t think it will change anything
- They don't want to ‘make a fuss’
- Contacting customer relations makes them uneasy
To answer the first two objections, advertise your customer service at multiple touchpoints (invoices, contractual documents, website, social networks, etc.) and how easy it is to get in contact. Be welcoming and proactive, show your clients that dealing with dissatisfaction is part of your corporate DNA and demonstrate an interest in what they have to say.
Customer reluctance to contact often stems from the time it takes to go through the support process or they do not feel comfortable with direct contact. To encourage them to take the plunge, you can partly automate the process with self-service tools. We will talk about self-service in more detail in part 4.
It’s important to remember that if a disgruntled customer is dealt with immediately he or she will often not go public about their bad experience.
A culture of vigilance enables you to ensure customers don’t slip through the cracks as
an unhappy customer will not necessarily contact customer service. But the chances are that he or she will talk negatively about you on social media.
If so, don't panic! At least you'll have a chance to defuse the situation. For this, you still need to be vigilant and know what’s being said about you.
You can do this by tracking brand mentions on the web and social networks. Use Google alerts or monitoring tools like Mention or Warble which will give you instant notifications of brand mentions. By detecting a dissatisfied customer, you have an opportunity to offer them a solution.
As a general rule, deal with all complaints and by answering a social media complaint you can increase customer advocacy by as much as 25%. Conversely, if you don't respond to comments on social media, it can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate
The key is to establish a culture of customer relations among your teams. Each complaint should be seen as a new opportunity to continuously improve.
Are you listening to your customers? Perfect. But beware, there are multiple channels and different strategies for creating a smooth relationship.
2. Create a fluid omnichannel relationship
What is omnichannel?
The digital transformation has fundamentally redefined the purchasing journey and the customer experience. Just think about how consumers buy products nowadays.
Let's say you wanted to buy a computer. Before digital transformation, you would have had to go to the store, compare available computers, ask the salesperson for advice and ultimately purchase the computer of your choice. The point of sale would have been your only channel, your only point of contact.
In multichannel, you see a computer on the internet but you go and buy it in-store. The channels are multiple but not interconnected.
In cross-channel, you order your computer on a website and collect it at the point of sale.
And in omnichannel? You buy your computer from your smartphone in-store using the basket you created from home the day before.
Today, the French use on average 3 communication channels to contact a business, so what does this imply?
The interface must be consistent across channels and ideally avoids any friction as you switch between channels as 9 out of 10 consumers want an omnichannel experience with a seamless service between communication methods.
How can brands create an omnichannel customer relationship?
Throughout the customer journey, a customer will use different channels to contact a company and the challenge is to make the experience seamless. Today smartphones are at the centre of this experience. Customers can contact you via a chatbot, website, social networks, email or by phone and these interactions are instant. As a result, a ‘mobile first’ approach with mobile optimisation is the key.
But the critical success factor for an omnichannel relationship is above all data centralization.
Imagine a customer contacts you by email to inquire about a new offer. A few days later, he contacts your call centre for more information about this same offer.
A single customer but two distinct interlocutors. If the data is not centralized, your support agents risk repeating themselves generating impatience or even dissatisfaction amongst customers. With centralised data, you can easily access a customers profile and history to tailor the response.
An omnichannel strategy requires a customer-centric approach where the customer is at the centre of your decisions and organisation. By doing so and recognising customers as individuals, your brand is fostering a personalised customer service experience which results in creating a stronger relationship between your brand and its customers.
3. Personalise your customer relations
A good customer relationship is essential for satisfying and retaining your customers. Successful customer relations involves increasing customer satisfaction and retention rates as 60% of loyal customers will purchase more frequently from their preferred companies.
However, if you want to retain customers and even increase the average basket by cross-selling or upselling, not all customers should be treated the same.
Each customer has a different profile, issues, needs, expectations and behaviours. Consequently, it’s customer knowledge that allows you to adapt your offers and messages to maintain the relationship and generate additional revenue. Previously, we underlined the importance of data centralisation to streamline the buying experience and customer relationship.
To personalise the customer experience, it's not just about using data in response to a customer request. We must go further, by using data intelligently to provide the customer with a contextualized relationship.
This can be done by adopting solutions (marketing automation, CRM) that make it possible to analyse customer and brand interactions. By making this data available you are creating opportunities for your support team to create more personalized customer experiences.
Look at Amazon’s personalised recommendations, that’s a simple and concrete example. Depending on the pages you have viewed or the purchases you’ve made, you are offered suggestions based on your history.
Creating a contextualized customer relationship for each customer is obviously an impossible task on a large scale without automating some of your actions.
4. Automate recurring tasks
Why automate part of your customer relationship? Because the majority of customer service calls always relate to the same requests.
If you don’t automate, your support team will spend the day repeating the same tasks dozens of times or more to different customers. Internally, this represents a significant waste of time and budget for low added value tasks with low added value. This is why it is desirable to automate recurring tasks such as responding to the most frequent support requests.
In general, what is repeated more than 10 times daily to your collaborators can and should be automated.
Internally, task automation helps resolve two major challenges in customer relations:
- Lowering contact rates
- Controlling the budget
Another advantage of automation is that it allows the internal dissemination of knowledge. This can be achieved by creating a knowledge base. Responses can be generalised and standardised generating maximum satisfaction and reducing the number of follow-ups.
And on the customer side, there are several advantages. Automation makes it possible to shorten response times and make the client more autonomous in their quest for answers. As a result, the fear of ‘disturbing’ or having to be understood is eliminated. The end result is that we have more satisfied customers, a department that’s more available with a budget that is under control, thanks to automation. Wow! In practical terms, there are a number of tools that can help us achieve these results.
How to automate your customer relations?
Automating recurring requests is a necessary step in improving customer relations and this can be done by integrating self-service into your strategy. Self-service consists of providing customers with online resources or collaborative spaces to quickly find relevant answers to their questions.
Intelligent and dynamic FAQs, chatbots, help-boxes or even support communities will give them more autonomy. By automating these recurring tasks, you will be able to focus on higher added-value subjects.
5. Promote high added-value tasks
The emergence of automation and artificial intelligence in customer relations does not mean the end of customer service.
Quite the reverse. AI allows clients to solve easily solvable problems on their own and client relationship managers have more time to advise and support clients with specific needs.
In short, you automate the basic tier one requests to better deal and focus on the more complex support requests.
In addition, artificial intelligence makes it possible to continue collecting data on the customer and directing them to the person best equipped to solve the problem.
Ultimately both have a higher base resolution rate and for customers with more complex issues. The service will also be more efficient and offer better quality responses.
Ultimately it comes down to identifying the needs and expectations of customers in order to minimise dissatisfaction. By automating recurring tasks you free up manpower to focus on higher-value tasks. How you manage the automation vs. human balance is the key factor in being successful with customer relations.