How to Increase Customer Loyalty

By Chris Keller

Customer retention is one of the most important contributors to growth, especially when profits are slipping. But customer loyalty stretches far beyond simply enjoying the products or services a business offers. Truly loyal customers enjoy your company so much that they will promote it for free and go out of their way to support you.

There are five main reasons why increasing customer loyalty is important:

  1. Word-of-mouth advertising: It’s real and it works. When people we trust recommend a service or company to us, we are more likely to check it out over advertising or promotions.
  2. They’ll stick around: A customer who visits your business or purchases your services frequently is less likely to abruptly jump ship. They like what your company stands for and will stick with you when times are tough. Even in the face of, say, a shipping snafu or damaged product delivery, a loyal customer is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt than look elsewhere for a similar product or service.
  3. They’ll come back more often: Sometimes loyal customers frequent the business more than they logically should — even if they don’t need to — just to support the company.
  4. They can act as a focus group: Many people take to social media asking for recommendations or opinions on products or services. Your loyal customer base will often answer those posts and share their insights. They will also share any feedback with you (good or bad) because they want to help your business succeed.
  5. They’ll always take your side: Loyal customers will always choose your product or service over a competitor, which gives you a competitive advantage.

Strategies for Building Customer Retention

Understanding the benefits of customer loyalty is important, but you need to build strategies to gain that loyalty. Below are nine customer retention strategies to jumpstart your business again and reconnect with your customers.

  1. Mission statement: Sometimes a brand inspires loyalty not through its products or services, but through what they stand for. There are many outdoor and active pursuit apparel brands, but one, in particular, is known for their strong environmental support and activism. Patagonia has a loyal customer base in a competitive market, and much of that is focused around their mission to save the environment.
  2. Convenience: Make your products and services as accessible as possible. Create tools, such as apps or online ordering, to make it easier for customers to take advantage of your products and services.
  3. Personalization:C oming across authentic and human is important when building relationships with your customers. Southwest Airlines is a very large organization that deals with thousands of customers daily. But if you check out their Twitter account, their customer service is personal and adds that human touch element most customers look for when trying to connect with a brand.


Southwest is able to carry on with responses like this because they’ve identified their audience personas and are communicating with them on channels those customers use frequently (for your business, this could be email, phone, etc.). Southwest encourages their customers to reach out through Twitter so they can continue to provide quick, efficient and friendly customer service.

4.Gamification: Typically gamification is recognized more as an acquisition tool, but it’s also effective with customer retention. Offering your customers rewards for completing valuable actions for your company is an effective way to use this tool. Think about rewarding current customers when they refer a new customer, for example. Or you could offer a discount or free gift once they reach a certain purchase threshold.

  1. Subscriptions: Is there a way you can use subscriptions to bolster customer loyalty? For example, think about offering a subscription service that includes free shipping, faster delivery, priority booking, etc. You don’t have to charge a fee for a subscription model to gain customer loyalty. If you provide these benefits in the form of exclusiveness, it’s another way to leverage this approach and enhance your customer experience.
  2. Education: One of the most valuable things you can offer your customers is new learning or advice. Your customer’s experience doesn’t end after they make a purchase. Let’s say you own a bicycle shop. Consider sending an email to your customer around the time when they should be conducting their first maintenance tasks, or when they should consider purchasing new tires. Informing them on how to better care for their bike proves that your business is still looking out for them.
  3. Customer support: We touched on this a little earlier, but part of knowing who your customers are is knowing how they use their products — and if they need support, knowing where they turn to in order to get it. Customer services should be an extension of your brand. If your customers look to get their questions answered via Facebook, be sure you are on that platform and actively responding.
  4. Delight: There’s a difference between satisfying your customers and delighting them. Blowout salon Drybar has gone above and beyond with their customer experience. For 45 minutes, customers get to relax, be pampered and drink a cocktail or fruit-infused water as they get their hair styled. These “extras” seem small (and are cheap to offer), but they make a lasting impression on the customer.
  5. Apologize: We all make mistakes, and if handled improperly you risk losing customers. If a mistake does happen, communicate with your customer, apologize sincerely and explain how you will go about preventing it from happening again. You can do this privately with the customer via email, or even publicly on your blog depending on the type of mistake.

Every business is different, so customer retention strategies will vary. The importance of customer loyalty impacts almost every area of running your business. Without happy and satisfied customers continuing to buy from you, your business will not survive. Loyal customers are better for business, and they’ll help you grow by keeping profits high.

Running a successful business can be stressful, and we know there will be times when you have questions. When you do, feel free to check out IncFile’s blog. There are tons of popular posts on important topics such as business marketing and sales that offer tips and advice to help you be successful as you start and manage your company.

This article was originally published on the Incfile Blog.

Chris Keller is a veteran the in business finance industry. Prior to starting his own business, he managed product lines at two Fortune 500 companies focusing on their Profit & Loss statements.

5 Strategies for an Enhanced Customer Experience

Customers don’t hesitate to talk about a negative experience with a brand ¬– they tell their friends and, more importantly, post critiques online for the rest of your customers to see. Even one bad experience can spoil a customer to a company forever. Customer experience has to be a top priority for contact centers in order to promote satisfaction and loyalty.

1. Treat all interactions with the same care.

There isn’t one type of feedback that’s more important than another ¬– they’re all valuable and important. If you’re going to have various communication paths set up – Twitter, email surveys, live chat – you need to be available and responsive on all of them with the same amount of attention. Otherwise, consider if that channel is important enough to keep.

2. Invest in cognitive computing.

Cognitive computing technology takes natural language processing a step further ¬– it can tell how a person is feeling by analyzing the sentiment behind what they’re saying. The agent can then adjust their responses in order to improve the customer’s mood to either neutral or happy before the call is over.

3. Allow all employees to make big decisions.

Unless there’s a legitimate reason why an employee can’t resolve a situation on their own, give your agents the power to make key decisions. For example, if discounts or refunds are usually offered to customers who meet certain criteria, allow your agents to present the offer without having to transfer the customer to a supervisor.

4. Offer excellent advice for the individual customer.

If you have advice to give, give it! The customer experience is largely based on building relationships. Customers will trust you if you give them valuable advice even when it’s not directly promoting one of your products or services. Creating a loyal customer can be more important than getting another sale right this second.

5. Make self-service obvious and easy.

You can build a solid relationship with a customer without speaking with them one-on-one. Remember, the company overall is developing the relationship; the relationship isn’t between the agent and the customer, necessarily. Many customers want the option of self-service. Knowing they can accomplish a task on their own can boost the sentiment they have for your company.

When you put customers at the center of your business goals, you’ll be in a better position to deliver the quality experiences they demand.

How Business Intelligence Makes the Contact Center More Efficient

Business intelligence (BI) is a catch-all term for the data-driven applications, practices and technologies a business uses in order to collect, integrate, analyze and present business information. The overarching goal of BI is to help a business make better decisions.

In the contact center, BI can be incredibly beneficial. There’s a lot of information that can help the contact center improve customer service, so long as the right data is found, meaning is pulled from it and management decides what the next actionable step should be. Here’s how BI solutions can improve efficiency in the contact center:

Smarter time management and scheduling.

Different people are productive at different times of the day. When you’re deciding when your agents will be most productive for scheduling purposes, though, it’s not enough to simply ask them if they’re early birds or night owls. With BI, data can show when certain agents are at their best. Managers can then create a schedule that takes advantage of those peak times.

Identify relevant cross-sells and upsells.

BI tools analyze customer information and buyer persona to help agents pinpoint additional opportunities for sales. The agent can then recommend and cross-sell or upsell the products or services that are most relevant to that specific customer. It’s always easier to convent a current customer than a brand new one, so long as the products they’re hearing about are actually in-line with their interests or needs.

Analyze current and future processes.

Inefficient processes result in more errors, but BI solutions can investigate if a process is working ­– and if it’s not, when and where it’s failing. For example, you can see if more errors are occurring at a specific time of day or on the same day each week, or if a particular agent is making more errors than your other agents. Not only can this type of insight fix current processes but it can also be used to assess future ones before they’re officially implemented. A hypothetical process can be rolled out and tested with BI tools, then either thrown out or refined for actual implementation.

BI is an integral part of customer service. While there are many different types of BI solutions for the contact center, they all share the ability to glean actionable information. BI can improve customer service, raise customer satisfaction levels and improve contact center efficiency.


3 Barriers to a Winning Digital Strategy

When it comes to your contact center’s digital strategy, there’s a never-ending amount of information to wade through and technology to choose from. All of these options can make it almost impossible to decide what you need to change or update and how to prioritize everything. When you do start planning, you can get so wrapped up in the digital side of things that you forget your very real audience.

Let’s go over three common barriers to creating a digital strategy that serves your customers.

Barrier #1: Assuming You’re Behind Everyone Else

One of the biggest assumptions about digital strategy is that every other contact center is doing it better. You know you have to create or improve your digital strategy but, feeling like you’re already behind your competitors, your don’t have the drive to do it.

Think of it this way, though – you wouldn’t skip over writing a business plan just because every other business has one, right? The same is true for creating your digital strategy, which is an integral part of your broader IT and business strategies.

Barrier #2: Focusing Solely on the Technology

Digital strategy is about so much more than the specific technologies you’re going to use. When you focus only on the tech, you can miss the bigger picture: connecting with people in the digital age. Your agents, employees and business partners have different expectations than in the past, and that’s due to the digital environment we now live, work and communicate in. Digital strategy has to take this into consideration. Instead of a replacement for relationship building, tech is best when used to uncover the better ways to connect and customize that connection.

Barrier #3: Converting Through Digital Interactions Alone

Your digital strategy only truly works if it makes your customers happy, right? If customer satisfaction goes down, you’re not really making progress, even if your contact center is operating in a high tech way. Since there are so many digital channels your customers are using, it can feel like the best way to spend your marketing budget is on more digital transactions. This is counterintuitive, though. Your digital strategy should leverage technology to help both your agents and your customers while leaving enough room for live, person-to-person communication.

How have you created a digital strategy that puts your customers first? Tell us in the comments.


Growing concerns regarding privacy and data security have reached a tipping point, driven by an astonishing increase in consumers’ expectations for trust and transparency in the brands they purchase, according to Brand Keys 24th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy.

Biggest Shift In Expectations For Trust. . . Ever!

“Trust – an engagement factor in every product/service category – has become the indispensable connective tissue between brands and customer loyalty,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. “Consumer expectations for that single value have increased across every category and brand we track, on average by 250+% since 2018. Consumer expectations increase each year – normally in the 2% to 25% range. This is an unprecedented spike.”

Where “Trust” Matters Most

Individual attributes, benefits, and brand values make specific contributions to consumer brand engagement and loyalty. In 2019, the dozen sectors that showed the largest increases in consumers’ expectations for the value of “trust,” increasing 100% or more, were:

  1. Social Networking (300%)
  2. Online Retail (272%)
  3. Department Stores (220%)
  4. AM & PM News (Broadcast & Cable) (205%)
  5. Instant Messaging (180%)
  6. Credit Cards (160%)
  7. Insurance (125%)
  8. Investment Services (120%)
  9. Fast Food Restaurants (118%)
  10. Online Payments (117%)
  11. Ride Share (123%)
  12. Smartphones (105%)

This year the Brand Keys CLEI examined 90 categories and 822 individual brands – from Automotive and Ride Share to Computers and Fast Food. Brand Keys examined Tax Prep and Financial categories, and all Retail (online and brick-and-mortar). Social Networking, Search Engines and Instant Messaging, Cable and Broadcast News, Smartphones, Cosmetics, and Credit Cards. All showed significant increases in consumer expectations for the value of “trust,” some brands significantly more than others.

Consumers Still Shop, But They’re Not Stupid!

“It isn’t just Facebook’s, Google’s, Twitter’s and other social networks’ failures to address privacy, security, and transparency that are responsible, although making significant contributions to the paradigm shift. Charges of hacking – foreign and domestic – and misuse of data have raised consumers’ emotional hackles,” noted Passikoff.

“Data breeches in the past year alone – along with failure to disclose – by brands like Macy’s, Saks, Adidas, Panera, Delta, Under Armour, and Orbitz, have significantly increased the gap between what consumers expect and what brands deliver. There’s a new brand ‘yardstick’ for every category,” said Passikoff. “Consumers may still shop, but they’re increasingly wary.”

Categories That Dodged “Trust” Expectations Bullets

“Ten categories dodged the ‘trust-bullet’ this year,” noted Passikoff. “Trust hasn’t disappeared from the engagement and path-to-purchase process, and expectations always increase Y-O-Y, they just haven’t escalated in their contribution to loyalty the way it has in the remaining 80 categories.” Those 10 categories – and attendant increases – include:

  1. 1. Out-of-Home Coffee (8%)
  2. 2. Pizza (7%)
  3. 3. Non-Alcoholic Beverages (7%)
  4. 4. Toys (6%)
  5. 5. Snack Foods (5%)
  6. 6. Gasoline (3%)
  7. 7. Economy Hotels (3%)
  8. 8. Lip Balm (2%)
  9. 9. Parcel Delivery (2%)
  10. 10. Printers (2%)

Where “Trust” Matters Most In B2B Sectors

Individual attributes, benefits, and brand values make specific contributions to consumer brand engagement and loyalty. In 2019, consumer expectations regarding B2B “trust” increased as follows:

  1. 1. Credit Cards 160%
  2. 2. Online Payments 117%
  3. 3. Smartphones 105%
  4. 4. Wireless Carriers 99%
  5. 5. Banks 99%
  6. 6. Tax Preparation 99%
  7. 7. File Hosting 95%
  8. 8. Computers 86%
  9. 9. MFP Copiers 26%
  10. 10. Parcel Delivery 2%

“The B2B category has changed in the past half-decade,” noted Passikoff. “Values related to B2B and B2C loyalty and emotional engagement have been converging. “It’s showing up in the consumers’ desires for more personalized, customized service, with B2C response times attached to everything ‘business-related.’”

“Trust” = Engagement = Loyalty = Brand Profitability

’Brand engagement’ is best defined by how well a brand meets consumers’ expectations for values that drive purchase behavior,” noted Passikoff. “Consumers have an Ideal image for every product and service; it’s how they measure brands. In recent years a more emotionally-based process has created a more value-infused, complicated path-to-purchase as it regards ‘trust.’ If marketers think they know consumers’ trust levels for their brands, this year they need to take another look preferably using methods more precise than traditional brand tracking.”

A complete list of the CLEI’s 90 categories can be found:

Consumers Verify First, Then Trust

Decision-making has become more emotionally-driven over the past decade,” said Passikoff. “But the addition of increased desire for trust and transparency have changed category landscapes. ‘Business as usual,’ ‘Research as usual,’ won’t cut it in today’s brandscape. Based on the 2019 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index findings, consumers’ behavioral maxim is ‘verify first, then trust.’”

The result? Massive changes in what consumers want and equally massive gaps between what they want and what brands are delivering. “Real engagement metrics keep brands on the path to profitability,” noted Passikoff. “Building brand trust isn’t a matter of technique or more social networking, but the development of actual, believable brand character and values.”


For the 2019 CLEI survey, 51,673 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they are customers. Forty-five (45%) percent were interviewed by phone, forty-five (45%) percent via face-to-face interviews (cell phone-only households), and 10% were interviewed online.

Brand Keys uses an independently-validated research methodology that fuses emotional and rational aspects of the categories, identifies four path-to-purchase behavioral drivers for the category-specific Ideal, and identifies the values (including “trust” as it is characterized in a particular category) that form the components of each driver, along with their percent-contribution to engagement, loyalty, and profitability.

These assessments are leading-indicators of consumer behavior, identifying such activities 12 to 18 months before they appear in traditional brand tracking or in focus groups. Brand Keys’ research technique, a combination of psychological inquiry and statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, and produces results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries.

4 Contact Center Trends for 2019

As we move into 2019, one-time contact center fads are now becoming necessary technologies and solutions. In the past, things like video how-to guides and futuristic voice detection were interesting add-ons to the traditional contact center. Today, they’re necessities, and the contact centers that don’t add at least some of them to the mix risk falling behind. Here are four technologies to consider using in your contact center

Enhance your knowledgebase with different types of media.

Text-only answers to FAQ are just one type of solution you should be providing in your knowledgebase. Not everyone learns best by reading alone, which can cause customers to contact a live agent even if the answer they need is right there in your FAQ section. To truly help any and all customers troubleshoot their problems, enhance your knowledgebase with advanced how-to articles and tutorials, plus animation, infographics, videos and any other format they’ll find useful.

Use AI to create a more personalized experience.

AI can be used to create a more personal customer experience in a way that lets the customer interact more humanly with technology. Face and fingerprint recognition can be used to place orders, or voice detection can be used to more naturally talk to chatbots. With advanced AI, though, comes more risk, which is why contact centers may have to improve their security as they employ AI technology.

Optimize the live chat window for mobile.

Even if live chat is available via the mobile website, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s optimized for mobile ­– for example, it could still take up just a portion of the web page, making it super tiny on a mobile screen. A mobile-optimized live chat page will take up the entire screen to maximize text and it will have a minimalist design to streamline the conversation. Push notifications are another must-have so that the customer doesn’t have to stare at the window until they receive a response.

Give VIPs a separate phone number to call.

When your VIP customers need to contact an agent, you want to make sure they can reach someone and have their problem solved right away. Give them a separate phone number or extension to call. They’ll get premium service and they’ll be quickly connected to your most experienced agents. Even complicated or specific issues can be solved without routing them to different departments or agents.


5 Ways to Use AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t about replacing live, human agents with robots; it’s about supporting the agent by handling more routine issues so customers can get live help for their complex issues.

Here are 5 ways contact centers can use AI.1. Replace simple IVR processes.

1. Replace simple IVR processes. Basic IVR can do something like transfer a call to the sales department. AI takes this several steps further thanks to machine learning and natural language processing, allowing it to understand what the customer is saying (as opposed to just giving the customer a string of choices). AI can get rid of annoying queues and “If A, then B” action sequences and replace them with smarter, more human interactions.

2. Act as an agent assistant. AI can function as an assistant by sitting on the desktop, collecting customer info via a bot that’s currently serving the customer, then alerting the agent about what their next steps should be. This goes back to the overall purpose of AI to help the agent perform better and to work smarter instead of harder.

3. Be part of the quality assurance team. AI solutions can analyze agent and customer conversations and give live feedback to team leaders and QA teams about both what is being said and how it’s being said. AI listens and interprets more than just words  it can also ascertain stress level and clarity of speech.

4. Help stabilize workforce management.AI can not only predict upcoming spikes in communication based on data but it can also recruit agents to fill in the gaps in the schedule. Also, since AI can handle a number of more basic customer needs on its own, it reduces the number of employees needed at any one time and levels out major peaks and valleys.

5. Improve the customer experience. AI can analyze the customer journey to determine where the hottest touchpoints are as well as different areas for improvement. It can also understand customer patterns and predict experiences in order to deliver an excellent experience before the customer even realizes what they need next. AI is finding its way into all sorts of brands, organizations and business processes. One of the places where it’s making the most impact is in the contact center. Managers are using AI to create better experiences for everyone, from agents and supervisors to the customers themselves.

5 Important Contact Center Metrics for Agent Productivity

As a contact center manager, you can’t just wing it. You have to know which metrics to measure and how to use them. Here are 5 contact center metrics related to agent productivity that may be critical for you to track.

1. Average Call Abandonment Rate. This metric refers to how many calling customers hang up before reaching an agent in order to give the customer a great experience, they need to actually stay on the phone! The issue could be that agents aren’t getting to the call in time or that the IVR has too complex a queue.

2. Average Time in Queue. This metric takes the total time callers are waiting in the queue and divides it by the number of calls that are answered. If customers are waiting for too long, you can find a way to make agents more efficient (like gamification) or consider adding a callback service.

3. Inbound Contacts per Agent. This metric measures the inbound contacts an agent handles, which isn’t limited to calls but also includes chat, email, social media and texts. You’ll be able to see how efficient your agents are and also figure out where they can make improvements. It’s possible they need help handling a certain type of interaction, like live chats, but are adept at all others.

4. Average After-Call Work Time. There’s going to be some amount of after-call work for the agent to perform, but if this is eating up too much time, you need to know about it. Yes, your agents have to do thorough, accurate work, but taking extra time cuts into time they could be spending with another customer. Monitoring this metric could tell you if the paperwork is too complicated, if the agent needs additional training or if there’s a lack of motivation.

5. Occupancy Rate. Occupancy rate gives you a bird’s eye view of an agent’s productivity. It includes all duties related to customer contact, including the contact itself and after-contact work. This metric is pretty straightforward: if the occupancy rate is too low, that means the agent is spending work time doing something non-work related or something for work that doesn’t involve customer contact (like training or another type of duty).

Other important contact center metrics for productivity include average speed of answer, average handle time, first call resolution and service level.

Intouch Insight predicts 2019 Predictions

1- CX management will shift from reactive to proactive. Customer experience and voice of customer programs are designed to collect data from multiple channels, collate and analyze the data and provide retailers with the information they need to respond to clients. Typically, retailers react to customer issues, by merely closing the loop when something has gone wrong – attempting to “fix” the problem. However, reacting to a negative experience will no longer be enough. In 2019 retailers must proactively manage their customer experience, or risk becoming obsolete. There will be more focus put on proactively acting on customer insights, anticipating issues before they happen and predicting opportunities to improve the customer experience. CX platforms will need to support organizations at whatever stage of action their company is at, and will need to scale to maximize ROI on CX investments.

2- Acquisition of key players will result in new technology options. The recent acquisition of Qualtrics by SAP is a signal that there will be more acquisitions in 2019. But what does it mean for customers? History shows that most acquisitions fail, post-acquisition integration takes longer, and consolidation of key departments (e.g. customer service, product development) leads to poor customer service and slower product development. As a result, customers will turn to faster, more nimble companies that are better able to focus on their needs.

3- Mainstream adoption of cutting-edge technology will redefine the CX landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will become ingrained in the customer experience. Using technology like connected sensors, retailers will generate more location-level insights about CX. This will help them understand how physical location environment contributes to customer satisfaction, CX, revenue, upsell, etc. The more data that can be automatically extracted, the more insights retailers will have to make the right CX and business decisions.

2019 is going to be an exciting year for the customer experience management industry but technology providers will have to step up their game to bring forward truly innovative and collaborative solutions. Service providers will need to work closely with their customers to ensure they are putting the right practices in place, to not only meet but anticipate their CX needs. Nailing the CX program in 2019 will impact a retailer’s profitability for this year and the future.

4 Reasons Why Gamification in the Contact Center Works

Customer satisfaction is about much more than the products or services the customer receives – it’s about how they interact with customer support even when situations are challenging or frustrating. In order to continue pleasing customers, agents have to stay motivated, which isn’t always easy. With gamification, contact centers have found fun, unique ways to keep morale (and performance) high.

What is gamification? It’s a workplace strategy that uses game and play activities to motivate employees and to measure their progress. Here’s why it works:

  1. Training is more fun and interesting.

Training can be a slog and it can also be intimidating. With gamification for training purposes, new hires can feel like they’ve already been put to work – challenge them to learn a new technology quickly or to revise current customer support techniques. If agents see they’re productive and valuable right from the beginning, they’ll be more motivated once they start their job for real. Presenting training in a gamified way can also keep their attention more than something like a lackluster training video might. Gamification can also help employees retain the knowledge better.

  1. Employees compete with one another in a healthy, productive way.

Gamification relies on healthy competition to get agents working harder and smarter. Incentives like bonuses and rewards motivate agents and also force them to pay attention to how other agents are doing their job, which helps them learn from one another. In order to not favor certain employees over others, management can continually mix up the goals so that every employee has a chance to shine.

  1. Management can assess agents at their best.

When gamification works, agents are motivated to work as efficiently and productively as possible, which then provides important data for management to assess. Seeing an employee’s results when they’re performing to the highest of their ability can uncover weaknesses or strengths and give management an honest view of what to expect. For example, it may show management that a certain agent is simply not right for the job even when doing their best or it can uncover advanced skills you didn’t know an agent has.

A happy workforce is a productive one, and gamification introduces everything from training to improved performance in an appealing way. Gamification methods can help you get the most out of the investment you made in your agents.