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September 10, 2010

To Keep Customers for Life, Customer Satisfaction is Not Enough

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor


Everyone knows how to attract customers: marketing, advertising and having a great product and excellent support are at the core. The harder part comes next: once your customers are with you, how do you get them to stay? It’s an unfortunate reality that many companies just don’t know the answer to this.

Many companies focus on customer satisfaction, but the reality is that satisfied customers will still leave if they get a better deal from a competitor. Keeping customers for life is more about building loyalty in the customer beyond customer satisfaction. Loyal customers are far less likely to churn than customers who are merely satisfied. But how do you create feelings of loyalty in your customers? The answer is that it’s trickier than merely creating satisfaction. Satisfied customers have their needs and expectations met. Each time they contact your company, they expect they will get a certain result, and you deliver that result: no more and no less. Lots of companies can do this. Loyalty, on the other hand, is given by a customer when his or her emotions are evoked positively toward your company. A recent white paper from customer support software company Parature entitled “How to Improve Customer Retention by Building Emotionally Engaging Customer Experiences."

By Building Emotionally Engaging Customer Experiences” examines the concept of customer emotions in fostering loyalty. Parature (News - Alert) calls it the “Emotional Signature,” which is a level of emotional engagement a customer feels each time he or she interacts with your company. According to Parature, the emotional signature is about defining the emotional experience that you want to deliver to customers: finding the one that drives the most value for you. “In our experience, most organizations cannot clearly articulate the experience they are trying to deliver. Therefore everyone does what they think is the right thing and the customers get confused,” stated Parature.

Of course, not all emotions a customer may feel toward your company are positive. Parature refers to this collection of emotions as “the destroying cluster,” which means that once they are invoked, they are likely to destroy the valuable customer relationship and cause the customer to churn. Not all your customer’s interactions need be negative for this cluster to be triggered: inconsistency is one of the biggest causes for loss of customer loyalty (or never forming it in the first place). A customer may have a positive experience with your company during one interaction, but a negative experience the next time. This signals to the customer that your organization is poorly managed: you are capable of delivering a positive customer experience, but you don’t care enough to reinforce the experience each time the customer calls.

Depending on your business, you may not always be trying to create the same emotional customer reaction as the company next door. A company that sells baby products probably isn’t trying to create exactly the same emotions in the customer as a company that sells sporting equipment. What you need to cultivate is the kind of emotional response that drives most value for your company.

To build an emotional bond that drives loyalty and retention, you need to ask yourself some very detailed questions that will allow you to put an appropriate plan in place. How do you show the customer that you care for them? What are the processes you have in place that might risk showing customers that you do NOT care for them? What is the root cause of creating negative emotions in customers? Do you have any processes in place that imply that you don’t care? Are certain agent KPIs (keeping average handle time low, for example) working against you rather than for you by causing agents to rush customers off the phone and leave them angry and confused? Are you giving customers the impression that you care for their money but not whether you’ve fulfilled their needs? Are you listening to your customers enough? Are you using the information your customers are communicating to you about what they want in your quality programs and call center best practices?

Essentially, building a positive emotional bond with your customers requires you to first stop and think. You need to think about what emotions you want to evoke to meet your goals. You need to think about how to foster those emotions, and you need to determine which emotions you need to avoid creating at all costs. Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers are their wants and needs – and be sure to listen when they tell you.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard




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