Time was, all you had to do was win the customer once. You made the sale, you gave them perfectly adequate customer service – and customers (bless their hearts) stuck with you. Yes, they might have whinged a bit to their friends and neighbours when you dropped the ball. But the difficulty and uncertainty of switching brands meant that most customers stuck with you through thick and thin…

That was then. This is now.

Loyalty as we knew it is dead.

Empowered by their hyper-connected devices, your customers now have the upper hand.

Well informed and in control, today’s consumers have a strong sense of entitlement – and ever growing expectations. They demand consistency regardless of channel, want immediate satisfaction, and expect interactions to be simple, easy – and even fun.

Now they know what your competitors are offering and it’s easy to switch – your previously loyal customers will play you off against other companies to get a better price.

And, if they don’t get what they want, they’ll won’t just break up with you, they’ll broadcast their hideous experience with your products or service to millions of global viewers via the echo-chamber of the internet.

More than an omni-channel experience

In this brave new world, leading brands are hustling to placate their customers by offering a true, omni-channel service: a continuous experience across brands, formats and devices supported by human, digital and physical channels.

They hope that this will be enough to win happier, more profitable customers at a lower cost.

Unfortunately, research shows that, while omni-channel is very important, it’s not enough. Like any relationship, you have to establish and maintain the emotional connection between a customer and a brand.

What do we need to do?

In an effort to understand how a brand can keep an emotional connection with their customers, Accenture has developed the ‘Keep Me Index’. Based on extensive research into what thousands customers are thinking, feeling and (importantly) saying about the brands they use, we’ve found eight specific areas that will keep customers loyal.

  1. Disrupt yourself – Customers have a higher emotional connection to digital disruptors than traditional service providers. Don’t just transform your operations with digital – rebrand innovative products and services as head-on competition to the rest of your business.
  2. Build trust by getting the basics right – Trust is the new currency. Our research found critical basics like service reliability and affordability are the most prominent reasons for either trusting or distrusting a brand. Customers want service they can depend on – and they want to feel that they’re getting value for the price they pay.
  3. Offer customisation in everything – The most influential components of sentiment and loyalty all relate back to products and, in particular, limited choices and the inability to customise. It’s time to rethink your pricing models and offer everyday low or personalised price points or use other customisation ideas to improve the value proposition of traditional products and services.
  4. Make every interaction matter – There’s a strong correlation between the way the last interaction made your customer feel and their sentiment towards your brand. Make sure you get the basics right – and proactively reach out to customers periodically with tips or relevant offers so that last interaction made them smile.
  5. Be a valued asset, not a utility – In commoditising markets, emerging leaders are making their mark on customers by opening up or expanding into new areas to meet customer demand. Consider collaborating with strategic partners to bring your customers new valued-added products or services at pace.
  6. Give them a real reason to stay – Are your customers really loyal, or is it just too hard to switch? As barriers to switching come down, make sure you’ve got the ‘last mile’ to the customer covered: communicate continually about innovation, customisation options or new pricing models so customers switch within your brand – not outside it.
  7. Grow your advocate base – Our survey found 90% of respondents with high or medium loyalty never talk about a brand. It’s well worth investing to turn these quietly loyal customers into powerful champions who talk frequently and positively about your brand.
  8. Create your own ‘Halo Effect’ – We all know about Google’s Halo Effect. Customers hold the brand on a pedestal for its innovative use of technology, cool solutions and personalisation. Creating your Halo Effect requires stretching your thinking, stepping out of your comfort zones and challenging the status quo. Iterating is not enough. You have to anticipate customer needs and proactively build experiences around them.

Your customers don’t want to leave

So don’t make them. Use these ideas to strategically plan for and invest in initiatives that help strengthen and expand the emotional connection you have with your customers – and stop them breaking up with you.

Bronwyn van der Merwe

General Manager – Fjord, Design & Innovation from Accenture Interactive

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