The measurement of customer sentiment has evolved over time. We are constantly searching for more accurate methods of understanding what customers will do in the coming days, months and years.
For a long time we tracked mainly customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, thinking that a happy customer is a long-term customer. After finding that satisfaction didn’t correlate as closely as we would like with future buying intentions, we started measuring customer loyalty. After all, the more loyal the customer, the more valuable the customer in terms of lifetime purchases, right?
Turns out, loyalty is more difficult to measure than we thought. Marketers then shifted attention to studying customers’ likelihood of recommending a given product or service to others, with the use of Bain & Company’s NPS (net promoter score). The need for NPS is seemingly confirmed by Bain’s own finding that, “60-80% of customers who churn said they were satisfied or very satisfied in their last CSAT survey.” Currently, over two-thirds of Fortune 1,000 companies use the NPS platform to track customer loyalty.
Satisfaction, intention to buy in the future, loyalty and NPS all represent a logical and useful evolution for knowing how likely customers are to stick with you, buy more from your company, and influence others to do the same.
There may, at some point, be more and better methods for determining customer sentiment in the future; however, let’s not lose sight of the real goal here, which is to move the needle and not just watch it. I’m talking about the lever you can pull in order to increase loyalty, rather than the mere measurement of loyalty.
And that lever is—drum roll, please—customer experience (CX), or the sum total of all interactions between a customer and a company.
CX is the reason why your NPS is where it is. CX is what you improve in order to increase your NPS. But how can you know what to change about the current customer experience, and where is your highest-leverage, lowest-hanging fruit?
Following are 4 approaches to finding those answers:
1. Invite feedback
When was the last time you left a positive review of an experience you had, without prompting? Yeah, me neither. It is important to proactively invite all of your customers to provide feedback. This could be the best way to learn why they will (or will not) remain loyal.
The ways in which you invite customer feedback may vary, but could include text messages, emails, social media or personal phone calls. Naturally, you will receive mixed responses, but constructive criticism will help you assess what’s missing for a more positive customer experience, while the glowing responses will stand as a testament to your future customers.
Although it is useful to conduct your own customer surveys, it can be equally effective to send customers to independent, trusted sites to post their reviews. “The feedback we have received has allowed us to take our company to the next level. Not only do our potential customers see what it is like to do business with us, but if we come across someone that had a negative experience we can jump on it right away,” observes Jeff Tomasulo of Interactive Trader. Tomasulo and team created a company page on Trustpilot and they have been actively inviting customers to provide feedback ever since.
2. Conduct win/loss analysis
For B2B companies, it’s critical to know why you win or lose deals. What’s your hit rate? Do you get more than 50% of the deals you go after? Why or why not. By following up after the purchase decision is made, you can learn which parts of the prospect’s experience work in your favor, and which work against you.
In successful sales efforts—where the prospect becomes a customer—the prospect experience heavily colors the beginning of their customer experience. It’s important to get off to a strong start and set proper expectations for the relationship.
One of the main benefits of win/loss analysis is the knowledge you can gain about your competition. If you continually win deals because of certain advantages your company has developed, highlight those advantages. Likewise, when you see a pattern of loses due to specific deficiencies you have but your competition does not, work on those deficiencies. Paying attention to your competition will improve win rates, and CX.
3. Keep in contact with customers
As customers provide feedback to your company, be sure to acknowledge their concerns. Regardless of how illegitimate their concerns may seem to you, they are valid to the customer. Take the time to respond to feedback in an appropriate manner. Let them know that you have heard their concerns, and tell them what you’re doing to improve. All improvements should lift CX. Your customers will recognize your efforts to adapt to their needs, and you will be rewarded for it in the long run by an increase of loyalty.
4. Target the right customer segment
Even Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, has naysayers. Your company is no different. In fact, every company’s customers fall into a similar bell curve. The majority of customers are in the middle of the curve, while outliers can be observed on either end. The two groups of outliers can be referred to as either impossible to please, or difficult to disappoint. Although they lie on opposite ends of the spectrum, they have one thing in common: almost nothing that you do will move them. They will continue to have negative, or positive, experiences with your company, almost regardless of how you interact with them.
It is important to focus on the middle of the bell curve. This is the roughly 80% of your customers that you can influence, and to whom you must listen. When you are brainstorming ideas on how to improve CX, keep this group in your sights.
Here’s to another year of measuring customer loyalty. May your numbers ever be on the rise. Ensure a higher NPS by pulling the CX lever early and often.
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