Relationships often begin with a spark. For some, the fire burns bright, withstanding the test of time, but for others, the flame quickly fizzles into a puff of smoke. But, just as person-to-person relationships take much time and effort to maintain and grow, business-to-customer relationships require work to keep the attraction alive. Here at 1to1 Media, we spoke with Keith Pearce, head of market dynamics at Genesys, to explore why customers become "disenchanted" by their brand relationships, how companies can cope, and ways to attract the kinds of customers that will keep coming back for more. Because, while customer acquisition may be an integral part of a company's overall success, building an unbreakable bond must look past the initial interaction to solidify the future.1to1 Media: Please describe the "disenchantment plank" and what brings on a customer's disconnect from a brand.
Keith Pearce: Disenchantment is a process and doesn't happen overnight. For brands, a series of negative customer service events will occur--a canceled flight, missed delivery, long hold times--fostering increased disengagement with the customer. These strings of events will snowball, ultimately resulting in the customer defecting to the competition. If you think about similar relationships with significant others, a series of arguments, disagreements, lies, or distrust will drive a deeper wedge between the couple--possibly ending in separation.
1to1: Why, in some instances, are companies and customers not meant to be together? What positive and negative repercussions does this have for both parties?
KP: A relationship with a company and brand is a two-way street and there aren't positive repercussions unless both parties feel that their needs are being met. The customer needs to feel they are appreciated and receiving value, while the company needs to feel they are adequately fulfilling a real need in the marketplace. When there's a breakdown on one or both sides, the relationship will falter and the company and customer were not meant to be together.
For example, some companies that provide poor service sometimes take their customers for granted because they feel that moving to a competitor might result in a difficult process (i.e. moving banks and changing auto debits, bill-pay and online and mobile banking). In this case, the customer doesn't feel that they were appreciated and receiving value and the negatives (moving the banking infrastructure elsewhere) outweighed the positives (the security of remaining with a bank for another 10 years).
1to1: What steps must companies take to design customer service strategies that attract the right kinds of customers for their brand?
KP: There are four steps that companies must take for companies to better engage their customers:
- Companies must understand their buyer's journey both before and after the sale. This is an opportunity to communicate how you will deliver what's promised, and to map these activities to the post-purchase process.
- Companies need to stop delighting their customers and focus on delivering solid customer service. Customers want service that is fast, easy, and takes their service history into context. The companies that get this process right will be rewarded with loyalty.
- Companies need to integrate their multiple channels. Customers don't want to have separate conversations when they communicate with a company through the web, phone, social, or mobile.
- Companies must make a human connection. By delivering relevant customer data, context, and information to empowered agents, customers will feel a closer affinity between themselves and the company's brand.
1to1: Once successful strategies are in place, what actions must companies take to ensure their customer relationships remain healthy and valuable?
KP: The key here is consistency. One poor interaction or service experience can quickly erase all of the positive interactions that occurred in the past. Delivering consistent positive experiences requires a multichannel interaction strategy across all channels, empowered agents, and effective management and insights.
1to1: How do these customer service strategies impact the bottom line?
KP: There are three ways that these customer service strategies impact the bottom line:
- Increased wallet share--Often the most impactful, engaged customers will increase their spend with a company. This is much more profitable and cost effective than finding new customers or prospects.
- Word of mouth--Happy and engaged customers have a mouth, and they are not afraid to use it. Through positive word-of-mouth recommendations, companies will gain net new customers.
- Walking the disengagement plank--Every day is an opportunity to engage your customers and to give them a reason not to defect to a competitor.