Maintaining Business Loyalty in a Changing Business Landscape
One of the many disruptions caused by COVID-19 is the change in consumer behaviour, which is challenging brand loyalty. The social distancing restrictions and lockdowns, and resulting financial uncertainty, caused many consumers to stop spending money on all but the most essential purchases. This resulted in more than half of Australian consumers changing their usual buying behaviour by purchasing from new stores or companies. (1)
As consumers look for lower prices and increased convenience, brand loyalty is less powerful, with customers prepared to try new brands and leave previously trusted brands behind. However, providing exceptional customer service can help overcome this risk, with 96 per cent of customers saying that customer service is important in their choice of and loyalty to a brand, which proves just how crucial it is to provide undeniable, consistent value to customers. (2)
COVID-19 has seen spending shift from physical to digital channels as public safety remains a top priority for both consumers and businesses. Consumers are replacing or complementing physical activities with digital equivalents, with engagement on online platforms surging. This means that online-only consumers can’t ask questions in person. Consequently, phone communication has never been so important. While connecting with customers over social media, instant messaging or email is useful, consumers often find it easier and faster to resolve questions via a phone conversation. It’s likely that consumers will continue to prefer digital channels after the crisis. (3)
With phone communication one of the few channels that affords a real, instant human connection, while also aligning with contactless engagement that comes from digital technologies, organisations must ensure the quality of customer service remains high, regardless of workload. This can be difficult, since ongoing workforce modernisation and social distancing measures make it more complex to contact staff members by phone reliably. A largely remote workforce means office phone numbers often have to be forwarded to a specific number, which is usually the store number. However, if in-store staff members are busy dealing with customers, these calls can go unanswered.
Customer calls are extremely valuable to businesses and missing them can be damaging. This is because customers usually call when they’re ready to buy or they have an issue that needs to be solved; both of these scenarios require an immediate response. Delays, missed calls or voicemail diversion can reduce customer satisfaction, and it is often difficult for organisations to call back at a time that suits the customer.
Additionally, in-store customer service can be affected if a sales assistant is on a call with no other team members available to help in-store customers. This can lead to missed revenue, client losses, and reputational damage, all of which can be catastrophic in the current landscape.
As the retail sector becomes accustomed to the switch from physical to online channels, consumer confidence will start to recover with permanent growth expected for online channels. (4) Organisations that have been slow to adopt digital capabilities must do so quickly, with those who have implemented a true omni-channel experience being best positioned to benefit during the early recovery period.
McKinsey suggests that three priorities will define customer experience in the post-COVID-19 era:
1. Digital excellence.
2. Safe and contactless engagement.
3. Dynamic customer insights. (5)
Leveraging digital capabilities, there are three ways companies can improve customer interactions to build customer loyalty:
1. Connect with consumers how and when it suits them
While the retail sector overall has seen a reduction in turnover year-on-year, some sectors, including eCommerce haven’t been as heavily affected. (6) There is added pressure to work harder and faster right now for many staff members due either to a reduction in staff, or an increase in demand. This can be dangerous for businesses as rushed customer service interactions can result in negative experiences, while overwhelmed employees are less likely to be engaged, which could lead to staff turnover.
A call forwarding system can help organisations maintain client loyalty by developing rich relationships through reliable service and consistent, high-quality customer interactions. However, simple call forwarding is no longer sufficient for organisations that want to truly leverage the power of human voice connections. Businesses need to be able to choose how and where to direct incoming calls. When customers call a business number, their call should be automatically directed to an answer point previously determined by the business based on various routing options. This will ensure calls are answered by staff members best equipped to handle customer needs.
As well as managing phone calls, an inbound call solutions agency can also handle the calls as a service. They can take messages, nurture leads, make bookings, process sales, and escalate more complex requests to the appropriate person. By ensuring a call is never missed, businesses can give customers the experience they’re looking for, leverage opportunities on the spot, and build a reputation for being responsive.
2. Automate workflows
By partnering with a call solutions agency, businesses can automate repeated processes such as call routing, email confirmations and reporting. This lets team members focus on more valuable, revenue-generating activities, rather than mundane administrative duties. This also improves the accuracy of company data as human error is removed from data entry processes.
3. Anticipate customer needs through data insights
Using real-time data insights from a call solutions agency, businesses can anticipate customer sentiment and add customer value. The rise of digital often means that consumers want information in real time. This means organisations must respond instantly, harnessing data and analytics tools that can extract immediate customer-experience insights and overcome the short-sighted and reactive nature of surveys.
Additionally, businesses can gain data-based insights into how phone calls are being made or missed, to whom, and how much they cost. This lets business leaders assess employee productivity levels, as well as gain insight into areas where the organisation could improve. For example, managers could see that most inbound calls are missed during lunch hours, which could be because the lunchtime rush keeps the in-store sales assistants busy. Using a call service agent during those hours can ensure no calls are missed.
In a changing retail environment, companies can achieve customer loyalty by fostering rich human connections. The permanent growth expected for digital channels means that phone calls have become invaluable in providing contactless human interactions. Partnering with an inbound call solutions agency can ensure businesses provide reliable service and consistent quality customer interactions by meeting customers at a time and in a place that suits them.
As J2 Global’s regional managing director, Mike directs the business’s strategy in the ANZ region. Mike has held numerous senior leadership roles in telecommunications and technology organisations including Nokia and Tait Communications. His sharp commercial acumen is illustrated by his success in roles with start-up businesses including Cirralto, and the Prophet’s Rock winery, which he established from 44 acres of bare land to become a global wine brand.