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The Journey to Brand Loyalty Starts With Good Service

Cultivating brand loyalty is harder than ever. Customers do much of their shopping online, where it’s difficult to differentiate between brands. Search engine giants and marketplaces mean many customers don’t even visit a brand site when searching for a product, and may not take notice of the brand name. In fact, only 16% of shoppers start their shopping journey on a brand’s site. Recent inflation and supply chain shortages have made brand loyalty even more challenging, as people seek out the cheapest option or the only one available.

However, the one place retailers can stand out to customers, no matter the forum? Service. 

Bad Service Is a Big Turnoff in Brand Loyalty Management

Good experiences will keep customers coming back: bad ones will stop them from returning. This philosophy has been the cornerstone of customer service for decades and has only been solidified in our increasingly digital world. 

Our annual Relevance Report looked at the service expectations of customers and how it affects their experiences. This year’s report emphasized the impact customer service has on a brand: We found a whopping 96% of people believe inadequate customer service experiences affect their loyalty to a brand.

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What’s worse is that customers have less patience than ever. 76% of customers said they would abandon a brand after three negative service experiences, a 3% increase from 2021. Twelve percent of customers would drop a brand after only one negative service experience.

What Makes It So Hard?

If it’s clear that quality customer service is such a make-or-break element for brand loyalty, then why can’t companies deliver it?

To put it simply, customer service agents are buried under irrelevant information. 

Forty-one percent of the information that the average agent receives each day is irrelevant to their job role. This means almost half the time an agent retrieves an answer for a customer, the results are either inaccurate or unhelpful. Not only are customers unhappy that service is taking so long, but the agents themselves get frustrated searching, and in turn deliver worse service. It’s a vicious cycle.

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One reason it’s difficult to find the right information is the sheer number of sources. While this may seem counterintuitive (shouldn’t more information always be better?) flipping between multiple search engines can significantly slow down the time it takes an agent to find the answer they need. 

The Generational Divide

Another obstacle to delivering relevant customer service: not all customers agree on how they’d like to receive help. This disagreement tends to fall along generational fault lines. 

Self-service is particularly popular with younger customers, who want the flexibility and self-sufficiency to solve any problem on their own, at any time. 40% of Gen Z said they will desert a brand if they can’t resolve an issue on their own. To attract younger customers, brands should invest in easy-to-navigate help centers that can provide the correct information.

However, brands cannot abandon call centers and customer service agents without losing a substantial portion of their customer base. More than 52% of Baby Boomers will drop a brand if they can’t speak to a person.

How AI Can Help 

Of the customers that we surveyed, there were three things they wanted out of customer service: consistency, accuracy, and speed. AI can help companies deliver all three. 

Purpose-built artificial intelligence models can determine what customers are searching for based on what they’ve clicked on and looked at. For example, if they are searching for information about returns, the algorithm can predict that they’ll need to look at the exchange policy as well. This technology brings the right information to customers quickly and consistently. 

AI can have a similar impact on the customer service agent workflow. Machine learning models give agents the right information so they can easily answer customer questions without getting frustrated. Not only does this help them close cases faster, but also helps them maintain a positive disposition while serving customers. 

While the future may look challenging for brands looking to maintain customer loyalty in a digital world, quality customer service can keep customers coming back. 

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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