• September 21, 2009
  • By Ryan Pellet, VP, global consulting services, Convergys

Turn Your Satisfied Customers into Loyal Ones

Are customers loyal, or merely satisfied? Too often, companies assume that the terms are interchangeable and are shocked when they inexplicably lose customers who previously appeared satisfied with service levels. As a result, companies are struggling with a new reality in today's experience-based economy -- satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal.

In fact, an industry study surveying leaders from major corporations in North America and the United Kingdom and their thousands of customers revealed that, after just one bad experience, 40 percent of customers will leave without bothering to explain why.

This disconnect is further evident in the finding that 83 percent of executives say they understand the customer experience, while 55 percent of customers say these executives do not. There are many reasons why customers and companies don't see eye-to-eye on the customer experience, stemming from one fundamental difference: The customers' view is outside-in -- from their own perspective, not the company's -- whereas the company's view is inside-out.

Who's right? The customer -- always.

To build a loyal customer base, a more comprehensive approach based on actionable analytics is needed. This approach draws information from multiple sources in order to provide a coherent outside-in view of what customers experience by understanding:

  • what they think (satisfaction and loyalty analytics);
  • how they behave (multichannel interaction analytics); and
  • what they say (speech and unstructured data analytics).

What Customers Think
What customers think matters to the bottom line. Companies that provide positive, value-based, memorable experiences will benefit with a 3 percent lift in market capitalization driven by loyal customers. Research has found that 68 percent of customers say they are generally satisfied -- but, are they loyal? Some 78 percent still say they will leave a company for a better customer experience value.

The issue is complicated by the fact that the definition of "value" is different for varying customer segments. Millennials see value via their social network, whereas young professionals see value in lowest time to resolution. The experience associated with the transaction is what customers will remember and will be what shapes their attitude toward the company and ultimately wins their loyalty. Getting it wrong once, repeated across multiple customers, will be catastrophic for the company. Understanding how to consistently get it right, thereby building loyal customers, quickly becomes a major differentiator.

How Customers Behave
Today's customers expect and demand more because they have been exposed to a proliferation of channel choices (e.g., Web, IVR, chat, SMS) and are far better connected via the explosion of social media and digital communications.

While the majority of customers still prefer live agents, the demand for self-service, multichannel experience is growing. Knowing what to deliver to whom is foundational to competing in the new service-based economy.

What Customers Say
Most intelligence a company can gain about its customers' experiences is by listening to its customers, literally. While customer satisfaction surveys are valuable, they are typically post-dated from the original experience and only solicit feedback based on topics the company deems important.

Companies should be listening to the spoken word, also known as the unstructured, conversational data being exchanged between the agent and customer. This dialogue is full of critical intelligence behind what is motivating customer anger or frustration:

  • Why are they upset?
  • Why did or didn't they buy?

This valuable intelligence is lost once the call is completed, then dispositioned by the agent, and then the agent hangs up. Up until actionable intelligence technology was available, there had not been a way to harness this asset. Today's analytics empower the use of this intelligence in game-changing ways.

Putting Analytics to Work
Two of the fastest-growing approaches that leverage analytics are:

  • Intelligent Decisioning: A real-time enterprise policy management approach that leverages what customers say, think, and do by providing agents with real-time information on what a given customer is most likely to purchase or request in a given interaction. From there, the insight provides the agent with a consistent way of handling the interaction.
  • Intelligent Automated Portals: Software-based solutions that provide significant advances over traditional IVR. Intelligent voice portals, for example, deliver self-service including real-time notifications of specific, vital information, such as changes in flight times or upgrades via SMS, or account inquiries and management. Customers -- particularly Millennials -- prefer this level of interactivity and companies benefit from the reduced costs of driving more interactions through an automated environment.

We live in a new experience-based economy. Customers expect companies to understand the customer experience and continuously improve that experience based on consumer feedback. Companies that use actionable analytics, coupled with a range of new intelligent decisioning and automated portals to create an outside-in view of the customer, will be positioned to compete in the experience economy and circumvent the real threat many companies face today -- silent attrition.

About the Author

Ryan Pellet (ryan.pellet@convergys.com), vice president at Convergys, is responsible for the management of the company's portfolio of standardized and differentiated consulting offerings, and leads Convergys' application of analytics to the company's Billion Plus customer experiences and interactions.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.

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For the rest of the September 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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