The traditional customer engagement model has always focused on multiple touch points of engagement between the business and the consumer. Now, though, this has been transformed with self-service.
Businesses looking for efficiency improvements now look to get customers to own their engagement with their services. This ranges from self-service checkouts to mobile apps to self-managing our services (such as utilities or telecoms accounts. This is reducing the cost of service delivery and helping businesses to be more efficient. But there is one major expense: customers have less engagement and less brand loyalty.
To help this movement towards self-service requires some consumers to be ‘encouraged’. This has been achieved by making it harder for consumers to engage with businesses or to move to lower-cost channels of engagement, such as live chat (where one agent can handle between 3 and 9 concurrent conversations).
How long does it take you to find the phone number or email address for an organisation when you want to contact them? I expect the answer is ‘too long’ because businesses have now effectively built barriers between them and their customers.
The impact is that the key battleground for customer loyalty is now complaints. If consumers at best are happy to self-manage and at worst are discouraged from contacting, then when a real issue arises, it becomes the only point after purchase that a customer really has to engage with a business.
It was said once to me, “Look at the names complaining this month and then you will see the same names leaving next month”. Complaints have traditionally been seen as a liability, not an opportunity, but businesses need to realise their customers are going to determine their future loyalty based on how their complaint is dealt with. Instead of being a liability, complaints are actually the best opportunity an organisation has to create brand advocates and retain future revenues.
If a customer has no direct ‘touch’ with a brand and then also struggles to get hold of the organisation, then they have already experienced two negative experiences while being no closer to resolving their issue. The consumer is being driven to make more effort to solve a problem with the brand taking less responsibility.
Why bother trying to engage when the consumer simply feels unloved or unwanted? Competitors are always willing to woo them with their shiny new service. The typical cost to acquire a new customer, with little or low loyalty, is £100 to £150 and yet to resolve a complaint and have a happy customer who will not leave is a fraction of that. And yet a complaint is still seen as a liability and not an opportunity.
Effectively resolving a customer issue delivers more than a new customer. It creates a loyal brand advocate, something that marketing alone cannot buy.
The businesses that are to succeed in a self-service-focused market need to realise complaints are the key loyalty touch point for consumers of their services and products. Complaints are increasingly the only opportunity to prove why consumers should love their suppliers.
Love your customers; love complaints.