Customer satisfaction can easily slip our minds in lieu of the fundamental need to get new customers. Finding customers is the focus of the sales departments of most companies, whether they deal in production, trade or services. And as we spend the majority of our marketing funds on hunting for new customers, we often do not notice the enormous potential in the population of our existing customers.
Naturally, at the top of everyone’s sales strategy list is a loyal user. Maintaining relationships with existing customers is high on the agenda of desired activities. It is also one of the core concepts of CRMs – customer relationship management systems.
However, what CRM systems basically offer is activity tracking, contact base management and communications automation, like sending an automatic reminder for a yearly insurance policy for a vehicle or sending birthday greeting cards.
Dedicated services such as customer support services exist that aim to keep the customer (happy). Their main task is solving whatever problems the customer has using the product efficiently and with minimal stress.
Despite the very high costs of such services they are often inevitable and are viewed as a “necessary evil.” They are an expense, but still the costs are smaller than the potential termination of the contract or the loss of the user we were counting on.
There are even companies that have calculated that it is cheaper for them to find new customers than to focus on the satisfaction of customers they already have. Especially if the margins are such that there is no interests to build any relationship with the customers.
But that way of thinking is less and less commonplace the more mature a market is, and as customers mature and become more educated, especially in these times of information explosion.
What happens in the real world every day is no matter how satisfied your customers are, they start losing focus after a while. Then they become indifferent to the product or brand, and when making a new purchase decision they neglect the many positive experiences they had using the product.
The brands that have recognized the power of customer networks are trying not only to eliminate all the potential difficulties in using products but also to activate the user community. The communities comment on products, send suggestions for improvements, describe their creative ways of using the product, and help other users by sharing various tips & tricks methods.
As the number of channels for information exchange becomes ever bigger, companies are also trying to remain up-to-date with the latest trends and enable communication with customers through social networks, text messages, emails, or user portals. It is with this kind of active engagement that we will get a loyal and satisfied customer who becomes emotionally tied to the product he uses.
A good example of a user portal is the so-called customer community portal that Salesforce has in its portfolio. The main strength of their approach is that companies can create a diverse and rich customer community portal with minimal effort and expertise, in a short amount of time. The portal can have many functionalities that directly affect customer satisfaction. From product information, various best practice methods and FAQs, to customers being able to directly communicate with customer service agents. Even communication among customers occurs, as the more experienced users give useful advice and recommendations to others.
Users can even submit official requests for assistance on customer community portals and track their case progress. They can make additional purchases or extend their subscription rate and take advantage of the various benefits that companies offer to active and long-term members.
Numerous researches confirm that user experience is an extremely important factor in retaining existing users and increasing product satisfaction, as well as increasing sales, either through repeat purchase or by purchasing additional products from the same manufacturer.
On the one hand, only 1 out of 25 dissatisfied users make a complaint. On the other hand, we are in the middle of a trend of customers increasingly using official websites or some indirect means of communication to troubleshoot difficulties and to find tips and advice for the products they are using.
It is relatively easy to conclude that the future of marketing and the focus of sales lies in a well-designed user community, and in active efforts to ensure customer satisfaction.
Željko Čačinović, Consultant, HSM informatika