Understanding Where Your Customers Went (and How to Win Them Back)

Technology never stops progressing. What’s great for users isn’t great for companies who must confront their customers’ increased expectations. Ignore this, and your customer base will dwindle without you even realizing it until it’s too late. The antidote is understanding how technology, particularly social media, is changing the way the Customer Experience Management game must be played – and then adapting.

(Note: this is a guest blog written by Avaya CMO Mark Wilson)

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I took part in a webinar broadcast earlier today entitled ‘Where Did All of My Customers Go (and How Do I Win Them Back?)’ with a group of great experts. Our consensus was that companies need to stop analyzing customers using old-fashioned demographics and ideas, and start being aware of the different channels available to customers as well the technology behind them.

Technology has dramatically changed how people interact with brands because of how it allows them to collect information. In today’s business-to-business world, 40% to 70% of the buyer’s journey happens before the buyer even contacts another person. So when they actually do interact with an agent, buyers come in with a wealth of information and high expectations. So how does a brand meet those expectations? By providing a sophisticated experience that matches the customer’s journey.

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Tony Bridgewater, executive vice-president of Australian communications provider (and Avaya partner) Salmat, had an excellent point about training contact agents for this new wave of informed customers. Your agents need to be trained not only to help a customer, but to help a customer who thinks they know the answer. With information so readily available, customers will sometimes tell service agents how to fix the product because they’ve Googled the solution themselves. Of course, the solution the web provides them may not be the correct one, and your agent needs to be able to correct them if this is the case (without hurting their feelings). Still, better-informed customers force your firm to account for this constant loop of feedback and make appropriate adjustments to your contact center. If not, a negative effect will be seen within a matter of weeks.

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I mentioned earlier how many companies still get their multi-channel customer experience management wrong. This is partially because, as analyst Sheila McGee-Smith pointed out, companies are still using outdated demographic information. It’s also because too few executives ever experience their own brand’s customer service. All the panelists agreed that the simple technique of going undercover at their own firm would allow executives to identify what needs to be improved within their CEM, as well as allow you to see firsthand what your customers are getting out of your brand. 

And then there’s social media customer experience, which is even more demanding of a brand. While prior communication methods gave brands strong control over a message, social media does not. In fact, customers are more likely to prefer third-party opinions of your brand than your company’s own content. On the other hand, 80% of people expect a response within twelve hours from a brand if they contact that brand via social media, versus just 37% who contact a company via e-mail according to eDigitalResearch (not 27%, as I said during the webinar). 

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Or take a look at these other stats, which show that 56% of customers who use social media to talk to a company feel a stronger connection. The moral? Social media is a sharp, albeit, double-edged sword.

Sheila McGee-Smith added to this by mentioning the “Amazon Effect,” which refers to certain brands, such as one Seattle-based e-tailer, raising the bar so high that even B2B brands are feeling the heat. Our moderator, customer experience guru Jeanne Bliss, had a excellent point: social media may be an impersonal medium, but it really shapes the identity and personality of a brand through your interactions with your customers. How you respond, your tone, your brand’s voice, determines whether your brand feels transparent and accessible to your customers. 

There’s an incredible amount of information we managed to cover within our one hour together. This is just a small sampling, and so I highly recommend watching the replay of the webinar as well as downloading the slides. Your customers may or may not be leaving, but you can certainly take the right steps to bring them back.

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