Paul Gibbons, COO at PayDashboard
UK PLC is back open for business. Event with the Omicron variant in tow, the economy is ticking up again, with high streets reopened and business confidence on the rise. However, despite GDP growth of over 7% forecast in 2021 thanks to high vaccination rates and the resumption of economic activity, business investment is expected to decline by 2.5%. It’s an up and down picture across the economy: on the one hand staff shortages and rising wages weigh increasingly heavily on certain sectors, but on the other, 70% of employers expect to make redundancies following the withdrawal of the government furlough scheme.
Against this backdrop of uncertain recovery, business leaders must focus on the things that matter. That means doubling down on account management and client support. Yes, a strong product and service offering is essential, but organisations capable of long-term success are those that put their customers first and continue to nurture them as they grow.
Here are our top five learnings.
1.Customer retention is the only way to achieve global growth
It’s been claimed that retaining existing customers can be anywhere from five to 25 times cheaper than acquiring new ones. That’s not to say that winning new customers isn’t worth the effort—it’s also critical for business success. But the bottom line is that consumers spend more on brands they’re loyal to, so it takes more marketing pounds to convert new customers than existing ones. What’s more, the cost of customer acquisition is said to have surged by 50% in recent years.
If you’re serious about global expansion, customer retention is therefore key. But be warned: going global comes with its own challenges. Your business must also remember to localise where possible in order to enhance the customer experience—whether they’re based in New York or Newcastle.
2. Understand how the pandemic is changing customers
We all want to get on with life after a traumatic 18+ months. That’s especially true of business leaders buffeted by uncertainty and risk. But we also can’t ignore the pandemic and its lingering after-effects. Many businesses have been forced to radically re-engineer their processes over that time, while consumers have changed the way they buy products and services. Digital commerce has benefitted most from this as UK sales surged by 46% last year, and there are signs that many of these consumer habits will stick.
This is also filtering into the commercial world, with digital the next normal for organisations. Businesses keen to tap these trends will need to divert more attention to developing their digital customer service options, focusing on availability and speedy resolution of problems.
3.Try to stay strategic
Given the business uncertainty of the past year-and-a-half it’s been challenging to make the right calls. However, it’s important to remember your long-term strategic goals and what’s required to drive them forward. Take the accountant management team. When the crisis first hit, many firms furloughed key members of staff, preferring to save staffing costs. But at the same time, this impacted the quality of service they were able to offer clients, forcing the latter into the arms of rivals. We’ve won clients who told us first-hand this had happened to them.
Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are the engine room at the heart of any company’s customer retention efforts. They’re also your eyes and ears: able to provide critical updates if a client looks like they may be looking to cancel their contract. This helps to minimise the kind of nasty sudden surprises which can derail the even best-planned business strategy.
4.Don’t forget the human touch
Don’t let the recent surge in digital fool you: customers are still keen on human interactions. Even before the pandemic, the majority felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience and wanted more of it in the future. The good news is that getting this right could have a major impact on loyalty and sales. Exceptional customer service was cited by a quarter (26%) of consumers as influencing their likelihood to remain loyal.
CSMs can help again in this regard, by delivering regular update webinars to share new features and training with clients and elicit feedback on products and services. Regular check-ins with clients to chat about their business plans also builds rapport and a sense of collective effort, as well as providing valuable insight into your own business strategy. It could even be a springboard to upselling or cross-selling opportunities.
5.Go the extra mile
The digital world has opened up a whole range of new possibilities to grow your business. But it also exposes the company to more competition than ever before. Yet reassuringly, 73% of consumers still say that they make future buying decisions at least in part based on previous experiences with a brand. And they’re willing to pay more for those qualities that matter most to them.
That means going to extra lengths to truly understand those customers, their values and expectations can make all the difference to retention. In the commercial sphere in particular the personal touch can go a long way—whether it’s a bottle of wine if a client gets a promotion, or a bunch of flowers if they’ve gone through a difficult time. These are the gestures that often stick in the mind and help to differentiate your company from the rest.