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The True Cost of Losing a Customer (and How to Keep Them for Good)

May 22nd 2019

Losing a customer impacts a business in several ways; loss of a sale and future sales, reputational damage if a dissatisfied customer tells their friends or broadcasts it on social media, and loss of valuable referrals. Here we explore the true cost of customer loss and how to stop customers leaving for good.

Why customers leave

Customers leave because their experience with a product or service failed to live up to their expectations. Classic examples include, an item broke, a guarantee promise wasn’t met, information provided was inaccurate, customer services took too long to answer, calls weren’t returned, a complaint was ignored or, the thorn in all customer’s sides, service was too slow.

Why we don’t want customers to leave

Whether you are B2C or B2B, customers are the lifeblood of any business. Keeping a slew of contented consumers coming is great for business, building bottom-line, generating word of mouth recommendations and attracting new customers, all supporting profitability and expansion.

But here’s the rub, if a customer has a bad experience, over three quarters are likely to bail on a sale.  

78% of customers have bailed on an intended transaction because of a poor experience. (American Express)

What’s more, customers who have had a negative service experience don’t keep it to themselves.

48% of customers who had a negative experience told 10 or more others. (Gartner

In financial terms, the cost of bad customer service costs UK companies £37bn, with retail, telecoms and energy sectors receiving the brunt of customer complaints (Ombudsmen Services)

On the flipside, providing a great customer experience pays. And while many companies focus on enticing new customers, taking care of existing customers’ needs reaps the most rewards, building revenue and customer loyalty.

Studies show that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25 to 95%. (Harvard Business School)

Focussing on current customers’ needs means they are likely to use a company again, and once a customer becomes familiar with a company, the riskier it becomes to take their business elsewhere.  

With familiarity also comes increased positive referrals, the hottest leads a company can acquire. When a customer endorses a company to a friend, the friend takes notice.

Personal recommendations are the most influential with 83% of people trust recommendations from people they know. (Nielsen)

It is also much easier and cheaper to sell to an existing customer than convert a new one.     

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 - 20%. (Marketing Metrics)

As if these figures aren’t compelling enough for strengthening relationships with current customers, customers are willing to pay over the odds for a good customer experience.  

86% are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. (Oracle)

How to stop losing customers (for good)

The key to accelerating sales and reducing customer losses is two-fold, paying attention to customer feedback and ensuring customer interactions are as good as they can be across all channels.

Regular Customer Research: Customer complaints take time and energy to resolve, and if a customer vents in person, on the phone, or on live chat, it can be unpleasant for customer representatives on the receiving end. However, the first step for transforming a customer experience into something comsumers’ like and want to come back for, is seeing complaints as positive.

A customer complaint, although requiring careful handling in the moment, is a rare gift, with only one in 26 unhappy customers making an actual complaint (Kolsky).

Complaints are raw feedback about something wrong that needs attention. As well an opportunity to put it right for the complainant (hopefully winning back their trust) it is a chance to put the infrastructure in place to prevent other customers feeling the same and hot footing it to the closest competitor.   

Taking being open to customer feedback up a gear, is to pre-empt complaints by proactively collecting customer feedback with customer satisfaction and customer experience research. Regular, quality customer research unlocks what customers want at every touch point, helping spot and resolve problems before they arise – the first step to crafting a best-in-class customer experience.  

Omni-channel customer feedback: Most businesses have upped convenience by implementing omnichannel customer journeys, giving customers the freedom to pick and choose how they want to connect, from social media to own-brand apps. While the intention is sound, omnichannel has widened the gaps for poor service to occur, fuelling customer churn and losses.

Common complaints include, companies ignoring requests and complaints on Twitter and Facebook and service inconsistencies between channels. Implementing rolling customer satisfaction surveys, such as TTi’s CSI Index, will uncover where gaps lie between service quality expectations and real-life service delivery, delivering actionable insight of exactly where service falls short and how to remedy it.    

Make customers’ lives easier: Time and again our customer research results show that where Customer Effort increases, Customer Satisfaction decreases.

Reducing customer effort involves navigating the customer journey from their perspective while asking the questions, what works well? What are the stumbling blocks? What could be improved to make things smoother, more effortless?

Lots of sectors offer self-service options to reduce customer effort, from self-service checkouts to chat bots, but how well do they work? For example, if a customer is using a chat bot to resolve a billing issue, is there also a visible option to speak to a live agent? If so, does the customer have to repeat their case to the live agent? What if the live agent needs to escalate the call to a manager, how does this impact the customer experience? Again, enacting the journey from the customer viewpoint – and actively seeking customer opinion about their experience with company systems and customer representatives – will pinpoint precisely where frustrations occur.  

Listen and respond to what employees are saying: Employee experience, how staff feel about their employers, role and work environment, feeds into the responsiveness and quality of customer experience. In general, happy employees, equal happy customers. As well as caring about their work, including going the extra-mile to deliver those ‘wow’ moments that make a company stand out, engaged staff are more productive.

Research shows highly engaged employees experience 147% higher earning per share than their competitors. (Gallup)                 

Provide employees with a means to voice their opinion about what is working and what needs to be improved regularly shows employers are listening and is vital for picking up where engagement is low. This is especially important for customer-facing staff in call centres, where employee turnover is high.

Periodic employee research, such as staff pulse surveys, finding out how staff feel – as opposed to managers guessing - will drive positive changes in the work environment which trickle through to better customer interactions.

For example, if employees are frustrated that they can’t access customer case details quickly and in one programme, improved tech will help staff perform their job effectively (happier employee), while also improving the customer’s end experience (happier customer).

Regularly tapping into frontline staff feedback is particularly valuable as they are at the sharp end of what triggers customer complaints.

Keep a close eye on competitors: Developing a strong customer experience means knowing what competitors are up to. Competitor benchmarking and analysis delivers several advantages, including insight to company strengths and weaknesses, identifying points of differentiation and where to develop niche services to keep customer engagement high. It is also good for gauging what new entrants are doing, giving businesses actionable data on where to flex their service/product appropriately to get ahead.

Deal with complaints as they happen – Complaints impact reputation, particularly if they gain exposure, traction on social media or escalate to the press and media. Social media is often perceived as an ‘add-on’ channel but needs monitoring and managing as much as customer phone lines, email and live chat. However a complaint is conveyed – privately or publicly – having a responsive, robust process in for dealing with them is vital. Oh, and on a final note, never leave a customer hanging on social media.

53% customers expect a response in less than an hour, which rises to 72% if they have a complaint. (Lithium)

Like to know more about how our leading customer, employee and competitor research can help raise your customer experience and stem customer loss? Contact us on 01753 214038 or email us using the contact form.