U.S. brands are out of touch with their customers’ needs says Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, recently released. The result is a “dangerous gap” in consumers’ sense of emotional engagement, connection, and loyalty.
“We are living in a market where customers are increasingly free agents and where adoption and abandonment occur at a fast pace and with little regret,” Forrester says.
It’s a gap that is widening immensely. Not valuing or listening to customers when they have problems has resulted in customer switching brands in droves — 85% of adults switched suppliers in the last 12 months at an average of 1.81 times per person in the year, according to a CallMiner survey — depriving brands of nearly $137 billion in annual revenue.
Reasons for the Gap
Forrester lists seven reasons for the widening gap:
- Declining trust in institutions and brands;
- Competitors offering incentives to switch;
- More competition;
- Fading differentiation;
- Internal corporate silos;
- Underperforming loyalty programs;
- Customer preferences.
CallMiner’s survey assigns blame differently, listing price as the primary factor underlying why customers’ switch. Other factors it cites, however, relate directly to the way companies treat their customers — not valuing or rewarding loyalty but favoring new customer acquisition instead.
“Shifting focus on new customer acquisition over customer loyalty is creating a dangerous situation that drove 85% of people to make a brand switch last year,” said Scott Kendrick, VP of Marketing at CallMiner.
“Three of the top five reasons for switching indicate that customers want to feel valued by the companies they choose and will make a change if they feel they are not being treated fairly. Suppliers should take this research into consideration as they review the value they place on customer retention and how much could be at risk.”
What will brands do to fix the problem in 2019?
Not much, if Forrester’s predictions hold. In fact, 20% of brands will give up on strategic customer experience initiatives altogether, resorting instead to price reduction for short-term gains; 25% will slow their digital efforts and lose market share, and more than 50% will refocus on branding to create emotional connections.
If there is any good news in Forrester’s report, it’s that some brands (20%) will refine and revitalize around purpose to connect to their customers’ lifestyles and habits.
“In 2019, purpose will regain meaning as a strategic priority for entirely pragmatic reasons — and to answer critical questions that go to the heart and soul of driving growth,” Forrester says. “Purpose will be the essential ingredient, acting as the strategic compass or the rudder in the storm.”
One Way to Close the Gap: Outsource CX to Call Centers
The question then is, what can brands do to improve CX? One answer: Outsource customer service to call centers.
The CallMiner survey puts call centers clearly in the spotlight as a CX gap-closing option.
“The survey uncovered that call centers play a pivotal role in a consumer’s decision to switch or stay loyal … when it comes to delivering services to keep consumers loyal, call centers top the list.”
Put succinctly, call centers stand in the gap, facilitating experiences that make the difference between customers staying or leaving.
And what lays the groundwork for a good experience? Listening and empathy.
Forty percent of survey respondents said they just want someone to listen. And when empathy is added to the equation, 43% of angry, annoyed, upset customers say they leave satisfied.
Of course, achieving such results demands that agents be well-trained and coached.
“This research shows that call center agents need to be multi-skilled and empathetic people who are capable of handling complex tasks and emotionally charged situations,” Kendrick said. “They not only need, but deserve, to be provided the best possible tools, insight, coaching and guidance to be able to deliver what consumers expect.”
The importance of valuing customers and treating them fairly has never been higher, and 2019 represents a year when brands can make a change even if, according to Forrester, most won’t.
One way to ensure CX excellence is by outsourcing customer service to companies that understand how to turn an unhappy customer ready to switch into one who will stay with you over the long run.