Building lasting loyalty is one of the biggest challenges businesses face in a world of increasingly fickle customers. So how do you future-proof your business to minimise churn and maximise loyalty? Well, one strategy is to hire a living, breathing crystal ball. Nicola Millard is a Customer Experience Futurologist for communications giant British Telecom. Her job is look at customer experience trends, try and decipher what's going to be important and what isn't, and then look at the impact that it'll have on BT.
For someone who has taken on the difficult task of staying a step ahead of her customers, Nicola's mantra is surprisingly simple: it's all about making it easy. She said: "When we ask customers about why they come back to the company, they say they will if the company makes it easy."
According to BT research around 74 per cent of people will buy more from a company that makes it easy to do business with them. In addition, they're 40 per cent less likely to churn.
So how can a company make it easy for customers?
"Focus on effort and ease of use," said Nicola. BT did some research with Henley Business School on effort and what it means.
To reduce effort and increase ease Nicola says businesses need to:
1. Reduce cognitive effort:
"Look at the amount of brain power customers have to use to understand things, for example a lot of choice and complex websites."
2. Look at customers' time:
"Things such as being in a queue or being put on hold. How do we start to cut it down from the customer perspective?"
3. Reduce at physical effort:
"Not so much for us, but does doing business with you require the customer to carry large boxes?"
4. Cut down the emotional effort a customer has to use:
"If people have to get angry in order to get what they need you're not making it easy to do business with you."
But in an environment where much of business interaction with customers is online, what are the particular challenges in building digital loyalty?
"Customers are omni-channel," said Nicola. "They will be online or phone the call centre. They're goal orientated and choose the channel that will help them to achieve their goal. Digital will be one aspect."
From that perspective, the one thing BT knows customers hate is having to switch channel and repeat everything. Therefore it focuses on trying to make it easier of customers across all its channels.
So how exactly does BT do this? Nicola cites the example of its IVR – interactive voice response – system, which asked customers to press 1 for a certain department and 2 for another.
She said: "The system was evolved rather than designed and it was being rated as difficult to use. We simplified that IVR, using more everyday language, and tested it with respect to easy."
And that's how BT builds loyalty – it's as simple as 1,2,3.
At this year's Europe's Customer Festival Nicola will be holding a session in the conference theatre on âHow can Customer Effort Impact Loyalty?' It'll be a great chance to have her answer any burning questions you have around customer loyalty and experience, as well as discovering future customer trends before anyone else knows it.
You can also get a great run down of this and other interviews and case studies, including Aimia’s Jan-Pieter Lips, in Total Customer’s completely free Little Book of Loyalty.