Increasing Customer Loyalty in the 'Age of Experience'

Author: 
Sean Erickson, EVP, Chief Marketing & Infrastructure Officer, Sitel

In the ongoing battle for market share, brands pour over metrics and tweak strategies to increase customer loyalty. The stakes are high, customer acquisition costs are expensive and most businesses can’t afford to lose sales to competitors. With prices commoditized in many industries, today’s battleground is centered squarely on customer experiences.

Data from an American Express Service Study shows that excellent customer experiences are the key to winning a customer’s hearts – literally speaking. More than 1,500 consumers were tested under laboratory conditions, and greater than 60 percent felt their heart rate increase when thinking about a great customer experience. For more than 50 percent of the group, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as love.

The recently released Sitel whitepaper, “Age of Experience,” notes that brands work hard to stir these emotions, but the realities of business introduce challenges. The continued pressure on cost, customer expectations, rising complexity and decreasing cycle-time make it difficult to provide outstanding experiences while maintaining margins.

Customer experiences can be improved through a number of methods. The Age of Experience report provides insight into technology and innovation, customer service operations, employee management and global sourcing.

Technology & Innovation
Social media, mobile, analytics and cloud are significant drivers in revolutionizing customer care. Consumers are using technology to contact customer care, and the experience must be top-notch.

For example, mobile devices continue to raise the bar for on-demand support. Be the first to effectively solve a customer problem and win loyalty. Modern marketers must also to use location data to provide timely and compelling offers directly to smartphones, providing a proactive customer experience.

The customer experience center of the future will be a confluence of technologies, and IT’s alignment with the experience journey is critical. As human lives become increasingly entrenched and interconnected with the solutions, the consumer demand for simplified service and support will continue to increase exponentially. Organizations must take a forward-thinking approach to the technology-driven world to create stronger customer relationships.

Customer Service Operations
Customers want more than products and companies must deliver more than goods. To improve customer experiences:

  • Initiate proactive customer service efforts: Anticipate needs and make outbound efforts to the customer. These greatly differentiated, high-touch services reinforce brand identity and customer value proposition. Gain a competitive advantage by initiating proactive customer service to delight customers with convenient, useful information at their moments of greatest need.
  • Move to recentralization: For 10 years, businesses have aggressively been chasing new channels and layering them on operationally, trying to engineer to the lowest cost to serve. However, each interaction across channels and over time must be consistent, positive and on target with a company’s brand promise. Learn to run a thread through all channels and experiences by centralizing with omni-channel strategies.
  • Fully enable self-support: Utilize all channels, from the web to advanced IVR applications and visual IVRs, to provide low-cost personalized multichannel self-service 24/7. Technologies such as speech recognition and personalization can help provide a more natural, effective, and less frustrating interaction than traditional touch-tone systems.

Employee Management
No matter your industry, or the size of your company, one tenet holds true: No customer service strategy can be effective unless the frontline people are motivated and trained to do so. To improve employee performance, take the following actions:

  • Monitor analytics and workforce intelligence: Metrics obtained from workforce intelligence solutions can help clearly define goals and measure the return on investment from learning initiatives. By making program goals and program outcomes tangible, companies can ensure tangible improvements.
  • Embrace generational shift: Millennials have significantly different expectations for their employment experience. Adopt sophisticated methodologies, tools and processes to better predict, incorporate and react quickly to the changing workforce.
  • Introduce gamification: Customer service organizations have a lot of experience with goal setting, rules, and incentives. Gamification aligns work with personal passion and commitment. Apply game design in the workplace to bring the thrill of putting points on the board, beating the odds, and accomplishing important goals.

Global Sourcing
Companies that understand and embrace innovative outsourcing relationship models with blended domestic, nearshore and offshore support reap great rewards, while minimizing risk. Outsourcing is not only about offshoring to one low-cost location, it’s about blending onsite, home-based, offshore and nearshore capabilities, supported by a global operations model.

Home-based agents complete the chain. Technologies have addressed bandwidth, security and reliability concerns. Utilize home-based agents to fill in the complex parts of a complete solution. At-home agents can be turned on to meet peak staffing requirements with part-time labor and provide specialized skills and language capabilities.

Sean Erickson is the EVP, Chief Marketing & Infrastructure Officer for Sitel, a global leader in outsourced customer care innovation. Sitel provides outstanding customer experiences on behalf of some of the world’s best known brands.