Do Our Contact Center Actions Create Customer Loyalty or Just Barriers to Leaving?

I need to start with an acknowledgment of David Cooperstein of Forrester for sparking this idea with me. David wrote:

“Lock-in mechanisms — mobile phone contracts, proprietary technology, and frequent-flier programs, for example — don’t create loyalty; they just create barriers to leaving. Forcing customers to comply with one set of rules designed for the masses makes your offer a commodity over time.”

David is exactly right. These “loyalty” branded practices, don’t create loyalty at all. I then considered this same thought for the manner in which we service customers in the contact center. Are customers doing business with the contact center (and the company) out of choice, or out of necessity? As another analogous example, I recently contacted a call center only to hear the auto attendant announce, “your anticipated wait time is 40 minutes.” Forty minutes! Outrageous, I thought, but…hmmm…I didn’t have a choice. It was the only known option to get the service. Did it create loyalty? Hardly.

So what can companies and the front-line contact centers that service the company’s customers do to instill loyalty? It comes down to the experience we deliver those customers. Give them choices in the channel they use to contact you. Equip your agents with transaction histories when the interaction begins. Staff plan appropriately to avoid long wait times. Implement collaboration tools to make it easy for agents to get the answers they need for a customer. Eliminate blind/start over transfers, by transferring contextual information when the customer needs to be transferred to another agent or to an alternate channel type.

The bottom-line is loyalty – I mean real loyalty where your customers turn into vocal fans – is earned, not compelled. The way to get there is to focus, almost to obsession, on the consistent delivery of amazing service experiences for your customers.

What do you think? What other ways can you foster loyalty from your customers? Reply or tweet a response to me @jstaples21.

Joe Staples – Chief promoter of moving past mediocre service