How to keep customers engaged during challenging times

Steph Heasman, Director of Customer Success at Feefo, explains how to maintain customer engagement when the going gets tough.

Great customer service has become essential to encouraging repeat business.

The vast majority of people are even willing to pay more for a great experience. Of course, in a world where next-day delivery and one-click purchasing is par for the course, customer expectations are high – but what happens when something beyond your control disrupts the way you do business?

Putting customers first, every time, is the only way to keep those all-important relationships intact through challenging times and beyond. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some top tips for balancing customer expectations when times are tough.

1. Tell it like it is

Be upfront with your customers at all times. 81% of consumers say that brand trust impacts their buying decisions, so maintaining loyalty is much easier if you set realistic expectations from the start.

If you’re in a situation that means your usual high standards simply can’t be met, let your customers know. Communicate with them regularly via email, social media or post updates on your website. And no matter how bad the situation gets, be open and honest – and they’re much more likely to be understanding.

Of course, if you’re still able to meet expectations, reassure your customers that this is the case. Regular communication, clear updates and social proof, such as reviews, testimonials and award wins, will all add value – keeping your customers on side and managing their expectations.

2. Put your customers first

In challenging times, customers will be seeking extra support.

By avoiding hard selling and embracing a softer, customer-first approach, you can provide answers and reassurance – with regular updates that show how much you value their loyalty. Be responsive; be visible. Answer queries as quickly as you can. Engage with customers across social media, share helpful content, and provide dedicated FAQ resources to help keep people informed, supported and up-to-date.

3. Embrace engagement trends

Apps, smartphones and social media are key to customer engagement. And no matter the platform, you’ve got to be able to deliver a great experience that works for your consumer base. Keep a close eye on where customers are engaging most is essential – but don’t be afraid to switch it up. Move with the times and capitalise on changing trends to make sure you’re following your customers – wherever they’re going. Work on creating a strong social presence, ensuring your mobile site is working seamlessly at all times, and keep your messaging consistent; even when things are changing at pace.

Surveys can show how your channels are coping with increased traffic, and it can also pinpoint your customers’ main barriers when doing business with you. 60% of mobile shoppers say they’ve encountered site problems in the last year, and with a huge rise in online shopping due to the current pandemic, this could be detrimental to business. Identifying problems, and fixing them quickly, can make all the difference.

4. Prepare your customer service team

93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases if they receive excellent customer service, but unexpected events can cause major problems – and customer service teams need to be ready on the front line.

To help representatives deal with an influx of enquiries, first, make sure they fully understand the situation. Equip them with the facts to avoid the spread of inaccurate information or false promises and capitalise on the human touch to show empathy for customers.

And don’t forget to support the team too. Support tech, regular training and asking teams for feedback can help boost morale internally, and this, in turn, will help ensure they deliver a great customer experience in any situation.

5. Adapt and react

The more flexible your business is, the more you can adapt to meet customer expectations in challenging times.

Offering support wherever you can, such as flexible payment plans, subscription deferral, or extended helpdesk hours, can help you support your customers without damaging your business – and boost loyalty for the long term.

It costs 25 times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain them. So, the more you do to support them now, the more likely it is that they’ll come back later down the line; bolstering your reputation as a customer-centric business and saving you money.

6. Lastly, keep listening

In tough times, it’s easy to stop listening. But acknowledging how people are feeling has never been more important, and simply tuning in to what customers are saying can really help you understand how to meet their changing expectations.

Your customer reviews are a good place to start, and survey tools such as Feefo Surveys can help you gain instant insight into how people feel towards your business. You can vary your questions based on user responses to boost engagement and response rates, and with simple reporting, you can pinpoint recurring themes.

This can help you determine how well your processes are working and identify areas for expansion or improvement. You may also be able to identify developing issues and address them before they escalate. AI tools, for example, can help by automatically scanning reviews and picking out the key themes to help you focus your attention.

Using this insight, you can then start making truly valuable changes to your overall customer experience that are based on real opinions. Not only does this help when times are tough, but the lessons learned from really listening can improve your customer experience for the future – and help you adapt the next time a challenging situation comes along.

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