The number of online complaints made about products and services almost doubled in the UK over the past 12 months with customers more likely than ever to take action against companies that let them down. A negative comment or a badly handled customer complaint can impact sales and affect brand reputation. Now more than ever marketers need to listen to their customers and act on what they hear.
The ‘2015 Consumer Action Monitor’ reports a massive 74 per cent rise in the number of problems that consumers acted on – that is the disgruntled consumers took action such as complained to the supplier or shared the problem online. For retailers this means it is vital to provide a customer-friendly feedback mechanism to understand what is harming the shopping experience, such as late deliveries, a faulty product or difficult website navigation. Prompts like these can also act as red flags for highlighting issues with courier service providers or the supply chain.
It is now possible to collect more customer data than ever before with software that tracks the customer journey through the website, the “what” the customer did, and also from targeted customer satisfaction surveys, the “why” the customer did it.
Overall customer satisfaction is an important score, but drilling down from that, two key questions to ask customers are, “Would you recommend us?” and “Are you likely to use us again?”.
High recommendation scores are key to successful marketing. Personal recommendation is highly effective, free marketing for digital businesses and it is easy to recognise brand promoters – those with scores of 9 or 10 on a 10-point “Likelihood to Recommend” scale. According to McKinsey researchers, “A high-impact recommendation—from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message, for example—is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than is a low-impact recommendation.”
Around 68% of prospective customers fill their carts online but do not continue to checkout. In the past, digital marketers had little information as to why shoppers were abandoning their carts but now they do. Armed with data on the customer journey and from customer surveys, retailers are now well placed to turn unhappy customers into brand champions.
Top tips to turn unhappy customers into brand champions:
1. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback: Businesses tend to see more criticism when they don’t offer a route for customers to vent their complaints. Without an easily accessible and appropriate channel, consumers look to outlets such as Facebook or Twitter to air their grievances. But when a savvy online business actively asks customers to review the products or service they received, the majority of feedback is positive. In January 2015, of 28,928 UK consumers who were invited to submit feedback at the point of sale, 21,536 submitted a positive comment (74.45%), while only 1,762 (6.09%) submitted a negative comment (3,449 had both positive and negative things to say and 2,221 had neither positive nor negative feedback)3.
2. Listen to the customer: If someone provides feedback, then act on it. If consumers feel no-one is listening to their complaint, then that just exacerbates the issue. If the complaint is acknowledged, then that is often enough to take the heat out of the situation and prevent customers from taking to social media with their negative view of the business. Acknowledgement might be as simple as replying to a negative comment: “We are sorry you had a bad experience with us. We are making improvements to X, Y and Z.”
3. Offer differential engagement: Some customers want to communicate with the business and provide information, while others do not. Design opportunities for customers to provide feedback when it is convenient for them. Younger customers might respond best to marketing communications through Twitter or to messages sent through visual social media such as Instagram, while the older demographic may respond better to emails.
4. Aim to provide a connected experience: Join the dots internally and connect your marketing team to customer services and logistics to create the best customer experience. Customer service and on-time delivery are both very influential over customer loyalty, so all teams should be held accountable, not just marketing.
5. Use customer data to inform product and service design: If customers are asking for a dress in red or trainers in silver, then let them know you have responded to that, and notify the product team.
In an age where online customer engagement is key, retailers must listen and be more in tune to the needs of their customers. Customer loyalty and brand reputation depends on it. Marketers must also use customer data proactively to create a positive experience, both in communicating with customers and ensuring their shopping experience meets or exceeds expectations. Marketers are missing the boat if they only focus on unhappy customers. If they do not leverage positive customer experiences, then they stand to miss an even bigger opportunity.