While many businesses are focused on acquiring new customers as part of their growth strategies, the importance of retaining their current customer base is often overlooked – which can actually have a negative effect on the business’ bottom line and growth.
Despite the surge in the number of businesses acquiring digital technologies such as chatbots as part of their customer experience (CX) strategies, a strategy fuelled by human-to-human interactions is the most effective way to drive a successful customer retention strategy.
A survey by Invesp found that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one.
“While acquiring new customers is an important part of growing any business, existing customers are more likely to make purchases, refer your business, and even try new offerings,” explains Mathew Conn, group chief revenue officer at BPO services provider Merchants. “CX is the single most important factor in driving loyalty and retention from existing customers, and in a post-Covid world where prices and offerings continue to converge, is essentially the most significant differentiator for businesses.”
While the uptake of chatbot technology into CX areas of the business has been increasing steadily over the past couple of years, the Covid-19 pandemic significantly shifted the way businesses interact with their customers – and spurred growth in this area in South Africa. While these technological solutions offer a cost saving element for businesses, Conn notes that they are not right for every interaction with a customer.
“While chatbots successfully enable one-to-one conversations with customers through automated interfaces, and are a great way to deliver immediate responses, they are not right for any and all customer interactions and are certainly not likely to replace the human contact centre agent in the CX realm,” he says.
A 2020 consumer survey carried out by Merchants found that South African consumers were more likely to use a contact centre (42%) than a chat service (35%) when contacting a brand or business, and 62% said they prefer speaking to an agent rather than using a digital channel.
“South African consumers also placed problem solving as the most important skill for a contact centre agent to have,” says Conn. “Complex problem solving is a massive shortfall for technologies like chatbots. Our survey findings show that while many people might start their query with a chatbot or digital platform, they most often end up seeking a human interaction in order to resolve their query as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Conn notes that it is about striking the right balance between humans and digital technologies. “Technology is able to augment and improve the human experience, especially for the contact centre agent – but customers are looking to feel understood, seen and valued, and that is an inherently human experience. While technologies can assist in creating the best possible CX for both new and existing clients, the human-to-human touch is what keeps customers loyal.”
As the world moves forward from the Covid-19 pandemic, in many instances consumers will continue to seek out brands, businesses and service providers through channels like the contact centre, social media and chat services rather than face-to-face. It is important that businesses are investing in the best possible CX strategies and partners and striking the important balance between organic business growth and new acquisitions