The Loyalty Connection: Why Your Customers’ Satisfaction Now Determines Your Revenue in the Future

Anne Slough

In a recent research report, I read that 92 percent of customers form their image of a company based upon their experience using that company’s call center. That same report stated that 91 percent of dissatisfied customers never purchase goods or services from that company again and interestingly, that 80 percent of call center executives’ first concern is customer satisfaction and retention.

While these percentages may seem high at first blush, they accurately represent the importance and impact of customer loyalty.

As more and more customers choose to do business via phone, chat, and Web sites, it seems the days of "seeing" your customer, in order to get to know them, are waning. With more companies competing for limited dollars with decreased margins, how your customers perceive you and your relationship with them is even more critical to your call center’s value and your company’s bottom line.

We believe that these economic times will prove to be a pivotal point in the call center’s evolution and value. More and more, we hear about how the call center is crucial to an organization’s overall go-to-market strategy. More and more, we observe how the call center is becoming the hub of marketing intelligence. More and more, we know that the call center touches incrementally more customers than traditional face-to-face outlets.

The Golden Opportunity in the Call Center

Historically, the call center has been used to drive down the cost of sale and to aggressively gain operational efficiencies. While these goals still remain today, we must understand that the actions that we take today will greatly impact customer loyalty, revenue and margins. So while efficiencies and cost containment is important, smart call center leaders also ensure that efficiencies do not negatively impact customer retention or loyalty.

Today, call centers have a golden opportunity to retain and delight those customers who may be at risk of defecting while further cementing the bonds between your company and your loyal customer base. Your actions today greatly impact where future discretionary dollars will be spent. This is true in a tough economy and it will be more applicable once the economy rebounds.

Customers, through their call center interactions, are taking note. Customers notice which companies "know who they are." Customers form different bonds with companies that can express valuable knowledge and information through each call center interaction, be it voice, chat, or e-mail. Each experience determines a customer’s current and future value to the organization.

At any given time, there are three types of customers:

  1. Dissatisfied Customers: Looking for another company to provide the service or product.
  2. Satisfied Customers: Open to the next better opportunity.
  3. Loyal Customers: Returns despite offers by the competition and gives you first "dibs" on their wallet.

Your goal is to have a proven game plan to:

  • Retain and expand the loyal customers
  • Bridge the gap between the satisfied customers and the loyal customers
  • Mitigate the fallout from the dissatisfied customers (especially with social networks, which have broadened the disgruntled voice)

To make this happen there are five key strategies that are worth remembering:

1. Use What You Have

Call centers today require multiple systems. Typically, these systems have been purchased over the years and may or may not be aligned. If you have multiple systems, you should ask yourself a few questions to determine if integration and alignment will help you meet your goals:

  • If you aligned and integrated your systems, could you create more efficient call center processes?
  • Would alignment increase First Call Resolution and substantially increase customer satisfaction?
  • Could you realign your staff to perform job functions in a more efficient way?
  • Could you redeploy your staff to perform job functions that are more closely aligned with their core competencies?

2. Leverage What You Know

With today’s technology, most call centers have extensive customer information at their disposal. It is a good idea to ensure that you are leveraging that information to drive customer retention, satisfaction and loyalty.

  • What customer information are you currently collecting?
  • What are you doing with that knowledge to enhance the customer experience?
  • What information do you know about the value of your customer relationships?
  • How are you using customer information to delight your highest value customers?

3. Automate What You Can

You should leverage and automate customer services whenever they can effectively and efficiently enhance the customer experience. We hear a lot about self-service options, speech recognition, online shopping and IVR. While each one of these tools can be deployed to achieve specific results, it is critical to have a game plan that makes sense for your customer base.

For example, different generations typically want to be served differently. For each target audience make sure that you simplify the experience and utilize your resources where they are most needed and appreciated, from a customer perspective.

4. Empower Your Call Center Representatives

Typically, no one knows your customers and their needs better than your call center representatives. By understanding the value of your customers’ relationships, you can identify how to best empower your call center reprsentatives to truly create customer value and loyalty with each and every interaction. Allow your call center representatives to practice the "new" golden rule: "Treat others as they’d like to be treated" (not as you’d like to be treated).

5. Focus on Your Call Center Representatives

Often in challenging times, one of the first line items to be slashed is the training budget. While this makes sense if the call center training is not providing tangible business results, it is a mistake not to invest in your call center representatives to decrease turnover, increase customer loyalty, and drive revenue and profits. Call center representatives who are engaged, well trained and prepared for the customer, are instrumental in retaining high value, loyal customers. Remember, just as your customers will leave you once they can, so will your top performing call center representatives. You can’t keep the best customers with the worst call center representatives.

Invest in your people and they will invest in your customers. Continue to provide targeted coaching, focused training, and challenging work or you’ll be left with dissatisfied employees and disloyal customers. This lack of loyalty will lead to lost revenue and increased future hiring and training costs.

I’ve done business with a bank since 1989, which is by phone or by Internet only. I’ve never met them in person, and I’ve never been to their corporate office. They are never the cheapest alternative for my business. Yet, I continue to bank with them. Why? Because they "know" me.

They create value with every customer interaction. I don’t have to repeat an account number or address or name. They make suggestions, based on my relationship that makes sense and seems to be in my best interests. Their call center representatives are obviously well coached and trained. Every interaction that I have with them continues to re-enforce my relationship. Once the economy improves, I’ll purchase more products and invest more with this bank, even though there may be better deals elsewhere. I am loyal to this bank.

Future dollars are being spent in the hearts and minds of our customers with every interaction. Be certain your call center is ensuring they’re being spent with you.

First published on Call Center IQ.