Companies should always be concerned about loyalty and growing the value of existing customers. But now, perhaps more than ever before, as we navigate through the disruption of the pandemic and the resulting economic volatility, reactivating existing customer relationships is a critical path to restoring revenue.
I spoke recently with Tres Tronvold, a strategist and customer loyalty expert. Tres states that at a macro level there are three broad things companies should think about when it comes to reactivating their customers -- Safety, Creating Occasions and Driving Sales.1. Safety: Businesses need customers to return again and again. Customers are only going to return if they are confident the business is providing a safe and healthy experience. Post COVID-19, safety is central to loyalty.
Companies need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and assess and address concerns. As we navigate the pandemic, it’s important to use insight tools like Voice of the Customer, Satisfaction Surveys, and Social Media to proactively listen to customers and seek out their points of concern, plus any dissonance around safety. At most companies, the CEO needs to pick up the phone and talk to a few customers – don’t just rely on the sales team to do this. Ask probing questions and listen.
Safety isn’t transactional, it’s emotional. If customers don’t feel like their experience was safe and healthy, they aren’t going to come back. On the other hand, the experience has to be enjoyable in order to build trust and loyalty over time.
2. Rethinking purchase occasions. When creating strategies to reactivate and re-engage customers, businesses need to consider the impact that COVID has had on the factors that shape customers’ purchase occasions and their decision-making processes.
The customer experience has been drastically reshaped across many industries. For example, Starbucks used to be a place to work or have meetings. Financial planners used wealth management seminars and golf outings with their best customers to build and expand client relationships. Those purchase occasions just don’t exist today.
Businesses may discover that the purchase occasion the relationship is built around is gone. While customers may still love you, they don’t have a reason to business with you anymore. For many customers, re-engaging them may require giving them a new reason to do business with you.
Clearly, businesses need revenue to survive and they must reactivate their customer bases. Economics 101 tells us you can increase demand by slashing prices, but discounting is particularly perilous right now.
Often, COVID processes have added a new layer of costs. Supply chains and distribution channels are constrained, and for some, safety protocols have restricted the number of customers they can serve.
Reacting by offering discounts to any customer crowds out the higher value customers businesses need. What’s more, customers will become conditioned to expect these deals, and companies erode price points customers expect to pay. Long term, given the added costs associated with COVID adjustments, many business may need to raise prices.
Finally, price elasticity may have changed. If a customer no longer has an occasion to purchase a product, or is afraid to purchase it, then a discount isn’t going to drive additional purchases—all it’s going to do is create accidental beneficiaries and drive down revenue on purchases that would have occurred regardless.
B2B sales and customer support have historically operated in a face-to-face, high-touch environment where a salesperson would travel to the customer’s location, meet with several teams, listen to needs and draft potential solutions. That’s been shifting over time to more digitally enabled virtual processes, and the pandemic rapidly accelerated this shift.
Salespeople and customer support staff are central to driving loyalty in the B2B space. Good salespeople and good customer service people create deep, personal connections within client organizations. The sales and customer support teams are often seen as resources for the client team—a source of ideas, insights, proactive problem solving. Those connections are ‘sticky’ and they drive emotional loyalty.
A recent Forbes article shared current changes in customer behavior, reinforcing that customers prize trusted relationships. The lesson here is to seek out or create opportunities to reach customers now that go beyond a sale. Doing so will pay dividends as we seek to re-establish face to face interactions and re-cement those emotional, personal bonds.
About our Authors
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Tres Tronvold is a strategist and customer centric marketer with over 20 years of experience in consulting, agency, and corporate roles. He works with organizations to conceive, design, and implement strategies to understand customer needs and behaviors in order drive innovation and grow customer value. Reach out to Tres at email@example.com.