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CMO Alert: Brand Loyalty In Danger Of Extinction


by Mariann McDonagh

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Article Highlights:

  • Personalized service is becoming a must.
  • More than half of your customers may be willing to switch brands.
  • A customer’s loyalty is only as strong as his last interaction.

We CMOs were practically born and bred on the value of a brand. Along with the goal to build brand equity came the objective to win repeat purchases and positive word of mouth, if not brand evangelism–what we deemed the best kind of brand loyalty.

Don’t look now, but that brand loyalty we worked so hard for could easily slip away.

Today, the brand is in the hands of the customer, and it can be created or destroyed by the customer experience that your contact center delivers. This may sound like an extreme claim, but a new study by inContact and Harris Interactive gives it some credence.

The Harris study, conducted online among 2,191 adults aged 18 years or older, tells us that we’d better raise our games to cultivate and keep our best customers. No longer is a great marketing effort and product experience enough. Personalized service is becoming a must.

Following are five hot stats from the study:

1. Twenty-five percent of U.S. adults do not feel loyalty toward any type of brand.
That’s any type of brand. Wow! The only solace here is that, at 25 percent, the number is relatively low. Yes, a portion of these people may never be brand loyal, no matter what. But the next stat indicates this nonloyal group could grow.

2. Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults indicated that they would be at least somewhat likely to switch to another brand based on customer service options.
More than half of your customers may be willing to switch brands. Perhaps they can’t get you on the phone when it’s convenient for them. Maybe you don’t offer online chat or respond to feedback on social channels. Some of these brand switchers might want to ask questions via a mobile app.

That hard work developing your brand’s identity, spot-on messaging, great creative, innovative social initiatives, and brilliant multichannel campaigns could all be for naught. When one small question or problem goes unheard or unheeded, it can make a big impact.

Take note, customers between the ages of 18 and 44 are even more likely to consider switching brands based on customer service options. 64 percent of this age group said they’d consider a switch. Younger consumers are crying out for a tailored experience with your brand, when and how they see fit. If you neglect to adopt new channels, then they just might move on.

3. Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults indicated that brands that don’t offer options for communication other than a 1-800 number seem outdated.
Your modern marketing has been multichannel for years, and, if you’re like most, you’re striving to stay up to date in a myriad of ways. (Online and mobile, anyone?) Are your customer service options keeping pace? If not, your brand could be seen as passé.

Don’t be seen as old-fashioned. Meet customers in the channel of their choice whenever they need you. A flexible, personalized approach is no longer a nice to have; it’s expected.

Apps for mobile devices, online chat, text messaging, and social networking sites are becoming important communication methods. Is your customer service ready for this future?

4. Eighty-six percent of U.S. adults expect brands to offer flexible timing and multiple options to interact with customer service.
These days, who doesn’t want what they want, when and how they want it? Gone are the days of 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern. Again, if your customer service team only accepts voice calls, most will see your brand as outdated.

5. Eighty-two percent of U.S. adults agreed that the ability to contact a company via a variety of methods increases their brand satisfaction.
That’s right, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed said if you give them the flexibility they want, then their satisfaction would go up. If brand satisfaction leads to brand loyalty, then customers will reward companies that provide personalized service.

Yes, consumers expect much more than ever. This presents an exciting opportunity to customer-driven companies that are ready to deliver.

Don’t Let Your Brand Loyalty Get Frittered Away
Most of us know what it’s like to be perceived as “only as good” as our last initiative. Well, it’s the same for our brands. It would be wise to assume that a customer’s loyalty is only as strong as his last interaction. Don’t let your brand equity and loyalty get frittered away with customer service that’s narrow and inflexible.

The upside of all of this is that those willing to push the envelope and provide a superior brand and customer service experience will win. Consider how much brand loyalty could be strengthened with the provision of personalized, flexible, and multichannel customer service.

Granted, adding channels to your customer service capabilities may seem like a huge effort. But the power of the cloud makes it easier to experiment with additional points of service. Rather than requiring overwhelming changes to internal infrastructure and systems, the cloud provides flexibility and future-readiness. The cloud can help you focus on the customer first.

Get Involved In The Customer Service Conversation
How many marketing organizations today are influencing what the contact center is doing in terms of adopting new channels? If flexible, multiple points of service are a key to brand preference and brand loyalty, then how can you not begin to get involved in that conversation?

“I want it all and I want it now!” is the new customer mantra. If your brand is not ready to deliver, then it is easier than ever before for your customers to take their business elsewhere.

About Mariann McDonagh

Mariann McDonagh was recently inducted into the DMNews Marketing Hall of Femme. Follow Mariann @incontactCMO.