The real reason your customers are leaving
The past year has been one of the most turbulent years on record for businesses in all sectors. Even those digitally mature enough to weather the storm and adapt had an enormous challenge on their hands, dramatically altering their processes and operations to account for what felt like an endless list of changes and restrictions to daily life.
Years worth of digital transformation had to be planned and implemented within a matter of days if businesses were to remain competitive, and that came with unavoidable consequences. For a lot of companies, one of the consequences of this rapid shift to digital was that the customer experience became a secondary concern.
This caused understandable levels of frustration among customers, with many opting to leave poor reviews or jump ship and go elsewhere. But is that the real reason customers are leaving?
Customer service has evolved beyond recognition in recent years. Even a decade or two ago, the only customer touchpoints a business had to worry about were phone calls, deliveries and a basic e-commerce website. Today, customers expected cross-channel support and a joined-up brand experience that offers unparalleled flexibility. They have a great experience with one brand, and it immediately becomes the benchmark for all other brand interactions. However, even businesses that have managed to hit these digital benchmarks have still struggled to retain customers during the pandemic, pointing to a much larger need beneath the digital service landscape.
We know that a well-rounded customer experience should come as standard in 2021. However, this past year has been anything but standard, and the pandemic has left many customers feeling cut off and disconnected, many of them extremely anxious about their financial situation. It’s an extraordinary time, and businesses need to deliver an extraordinary level of service. Financial vulnerability can be mentally debilitating for those experiencing it, and that’s where service providers really ought to step in and go the extra mile for their customers. It really boils down to one thing – empathy.
A lot of businesses talk a good game when it comes to “being there” for their customers, often delivering nice platitudes as part of a well-groomed marketing campaign. But what happens when the going really gets tough? Empathy and flexibility are two very important pillars of customer service that, amid the din of the digital revolution, risk getting lost.
Empathy can’t just be a box-ticking exercise that can be delivered by an agent over the phone, yet that is precisely how a lot of modern businesses approach it. It runs deeper than, “I understand your frustration, let’s see what we can do”. Services need to be tailored and personalised to account for the challenging and unique circumstances that individuals find themselves in.
Real empathy is more than just a word; it’s an action. Businesses need to demonstrate their empathy through flexibility, openness and a willingness to bend for the customers. Far from costing a business, this approach can actually help to make a business more profitable.
The Harvard Business Review created what it called an Empathy Index, which looked at the benefits of nurturing an empathetic culture within an organisation. It found that the top ten most empathetic companies increased their financial value more than twice as much as those in the bottom ten. What’s more, according to Deloitte, customers are likely to spend 140% more after forming a long-term bond with a company following a string of positive experiences.
So what does this mean in real terms? This pandemic has left people feeling exposed and vulnerable, particularly with regard to their finances. The rules of engagement have changed for consumers and so have the risks, so they’re understandably demanding more flexibility, protection and support.
Businesses have a duty of care to their employees – why shouldn’t that extend to their customers too? Companies exercise flexibility and empathy with their staff members all the time, making allowances for illnesses and other mitigating circumstances. Customers are susceptible to those same forces, and should be granted the same level of flexibility. Customers are, after all, the very lifeblood on which your business is built, so it stands to reason that you’d want to protect them as much as your own staff members.
If a customer falls behind on their payments, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of them. If your way of dealing with that as a business is to immediately red flag the customer and send a strongly worded letter in red ink, you’re already on the losing side. Instead, try a more conciliatory, empathetic approach such as inviting them to have a phone call on their terms to discuss their situation. Your entire payment solutions system could be geared around empathy, self-service and customer empowerment. Not only would you increase your debt recovery rate, but you’d also have far less work to do as a business.
So next time you experience the “revolving door” effect, with customers leaving as quickly as they’re onboarding, don’t blame the digital revolution or current events. Look beyond all of that and start a cultural revolution from within, then “build back better”, as they say.