By Richard Gatete Mugarura
Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you – Chip R Bell, a renowned Customer and Innovation Consultant. This underscores the increasing power that the customer of this day and age wields. As such, every business must strive to attain maximum customer loyalty. These become formidable brand ambassadors and help achieve sustainable profitability and growth.
A study by the Harvard Business school noted that, customer satisfaction and loyalty provide a foundation for high levels of customer lifetime value characterized by loyalty (repeat purchases), commitment (willingness to refer others to a product or service), apostle‐like behavior (willingness to convince others to use a product or service), and ownership (willingness to recommend product or service improvements). As such, customer loyalty is noted to contribute up to 65% of revenues. In practical sense, this is done through up-sell and cross-sell opportunities with existing customers.
Before the advent of advanced technology, the customer journey was a manual end-to-end process. Right from consumer awareness, advertising and brand visibility were all done on the traditional media channels like Print Newspapers, Radio, Television, Billboards, etc. Paperwork had to be filled in, submitted, processed, and filed manually. Whenever a client had a query or complaint on the product/service bought, they would have to physically visit the office or make an expensive telephone call to the company and follow-up to have it resolved.
With the ever-increasing advancement in technology in terms of systems, mobile applications, social media, Artificial Intelligence (AI) like Chatbots, etc., the customer has never been freer to engage! They have an information overload at just a tap of a finger on their personal gadgets and the internet continues to create a world of infinite possibilities. Your competitor is only one click/tap away. As such, customers increasingly want to consume products or services on-the-go.
There are four (4) core areas of focus for any business to remain relevant and competitive:
• Seamless & Frictionless: Make the customer touchpoint almost invisible to them. Manage all internal processes and procedures for the client to consistently get the desired product/service in a timely manner.
• Convenience & Shared Value: Position your business as a lifestyle – NOT a list of products or services. This is what will get your customers’ attention. All businesses are competing for customers’ attention and creating an eco-system of different solutions that clients consume from day to day goes a long way. This calls for innovations and integrations with other businesses or service providers so that customers have a one-stop shop for most of their needs.
• Engage: Make it as simple as possible for customers to engage meaningfully and be part of the conversation. Employing performance review metrices like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) and the like becomes a good avenue to constantly engage clients and make them the centre of all your processes and decision making. The renowned Management guru, Peter Drucker, once said “Know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits them and sells itself.” Therefore, the more you engage customers, the clearer their pain points become, and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.
• Hyper-personalized: Constantly be in touch with the customer, develop smart and creative ways to understand and interact with them in a manner they like. This calls for segmentation and using customer data to drive business decisions like staffing, considering the age group and language diversity in contact/service-centres, translating product/service material in different languages, capacity building through new & refresher trainings. Hyper-personalization creates a customized and unique experience for each customer segment and ultimately drives up business strategic value.
It is important to appreciate that all this cannot be achieved with the snap of a finger. It takes deliberate gradual efforts to drive the culture of championing excellent customer experience across a business.
At UAP OldMutual Life Assurance (U) Ltd, we have since embarked on that journey. The cultural transformation journey among all staff is still underway – aimed at creating customer experience advocacy and living one of our Core Values of ‘Champion the Customer’. Reaffirming tone right from the top regarding the need to have the customer as the heart and soul of all our operations is core to this ambitious journey. We are also putting in place the requisite ICT infrastructure for our clients and intermediaries to self-serve. The journey is arduous, but it must be done.
We remain deeply committed to continuously giving our customers value by reviewing our products from time to time and introducing features which go a long way in underscoring our vision of ‘Transforming Lives and Enabling Financial Goals’.
Key innovations include the Child Income Benefit (CIB) on our Somesa Education Plan which is 12% of a client’s total guaranteed benefits paid annually to the Next of Kin starting one year from the Policy Holder’s demise. We have several poignant testimonies of how this has been a lifeline to orphans of deceased Policy Holders. Because loved ones our other retail products like the Sure Deal Plan represent our clients’ dreams and aspirations, we offer Guaranteed Benefits which ensure that the same are achieved whether they are alive or not, able-bodied, or not – to secure both their future and that of their loved-ones.
In conclusion, the adage of ‘customer is king’ is even more pronounced in an informed society. Businesses MUST therefore make enhancing the customer experience the center of all their operations and decisions. They should be intentional about continuously championing a culture where client servicing and satisfaction is everyone’s job!
The writer is the Head of Customer Experience at UAP OldMutual Life Assurance (U) Ltd.