At the start of this year, while the coronavirus was ravaging the foundations and systems of the world, there’s no part of our core as the human race that was not tested and suffocated in the process ranging from health systems to social to political to religious, economic, financial systems, communication, recreation, travel and trade among many other things.
Ultimately, each of these cross-systems began to witness a slump, slow down, and in extreme cases, shut down. For businesses that developed thick-skin, new ways of work like remote working, shift working, onsite accommodation, extended or unpaid leave et cetera were adopted whereas, for the customer, expenditure patterns were influenced by value for money and how essential service was to their daily life or basic needs.
Most if not all customer consumption behaviour changed post-covid with most spending on only necessities. This fundamental shift is detrimental to many kinds of businesses and leaves only room for survival of the fittest.
Fortunately, there are cross-cutting actions that businesses can adopt to be able to win back lost customers, drive new loyalty and get out of “survival mode.” They include;
Your first customers are your staff and other key internal stakeholders. These are your first-line ‘free’ business ambassadors, your No.1 battle weapon against competition and if they engaged and happy, they will deliver quality service and offer a memorable experience to your customer.
Availability and easy access to information in relation to the business, products and services is an essential part of the internal and external customer retention considerations that need to be made. If a staff or customer doesn’t have to search endlessly for information on products or services like expiry dates, business opening hours, product specifications, prices, who to escalate complaints too, among other things will drive them to your competition who “open” for business.
Access to information goes hand-in-hand with communication. Talking to, listening actively, receiving feedback from and acting on any new insights is key for any business to remain standing. All possible lines of communication must therefore be available to staff and customers respectively to enable them to reach you.
Additionally, customers respond positively to a business that is accessible and has approachable and friendly staff. Rude staff repel customers while customers are attracted to those that wear a smile, go an extra mile to provide solutions is a sure way to build an army of loyalist ambassadors for the business.
Points of access to information and of contact for today’s customer include a toll-free line, website, social media pages especially Facebook and Instagram and finally, Business WhatsApp.
A business’ offering to customers must provide value for money –- customers are willing to spend only where they are assured of value for the money they are going to spend. Barbershops today have mastered this art by offering simple massages to male clients who come to have haircuts or shave their beards.
Deliver a memorable customer experience right from the first contact a customer has with your business, to a selection of a product to purchase, to payment options available to their next return to buy or consume your product (s).
Research shows that an unhappy customer will tell 11-14 people about their nasty experience with your business while a happy customer will tell between only 3-5 people about their experience with your business.
Finally, a customer reward system or loyalty program is necessary to keep customers happy, returning and loyal to your businesses. Airlines and Hotels mastered this art quite accurately. Airline miles, for example, ensure that a specific passenger will return because they are assured of miles that if accumulated for over a period can be transformed into a flight ticket, excess baggage, free upgrade to business or first class.
It is therefore key for businesses to be intentional about the strategies they will deploy to ensure customers are won back, retained and converted into organic brand ambassadors.
The writer is the Head of Customer Retention at MultiChoice Uganda.