How Customer Experience Drives Word of Mouth
If your brand is struggling to deliver a positive customer experience, not only will your customer base begin to shrink, but building it up again will be more difficult. Increasingly, consumers are voicing their opinions – about positive and negative interactions – on social media and review aggregation websites.
Customer experience (CX) is still front of mind for consumers in the U.K. and U.S. when pledging brand allegiance and customer loyalty. Our latest whitepaper, Driving Customer Loyalty: Perception, Effort and Action, reveals that the perception of negative customer experience is a major reason for breaking up with a brand and shifting their loyalty to your competitors.
For as long as there have been competing brands, customer experience has been a differentiating factor. However, until now, a consumer had to base his or her brand loyalty decision on first-hand experiences. Today, thanks to the increase of social networks (and the ability for strangers on opposite sides of the world to engage in digital conversations, including positive and negative brand perception), getting customer experience right has never been more important.
Why Word of Mouth Matters
For brands that excel in combining their products and services with delivering a positive customer experience, this digital-age communication breakthrough should be warmly welcomed. Even if the brand’s market or footprint is regional, conversations around their positive digital reputation has a potential global reach.
Unfortunately, the reverse is true for brands who are struggling to deliver on their customers’ expectations, even if their products and services are the same as brand leaders’.
Before social networks and review sites became everyday elements of daily life, an inability to match the experience delivered by CX leaders would create a higher rate of customer churn.
But today, in addition to negatively impacting your brand’s existing customer base, attracting new people to make up the deficit is even more difficult. This is due to the ease with which consumers can – and do – share their brand interactions.
CX and Brand Loyalty
Just within the first 90 days of 2021, over one third of consumers debated whether to discontinue their relationship with a brand. And, the issue that triggered this consideration wasn’t the quality or performance of a product or service – it was because the customer experience wasn’t up to scratch. Whether or not this disappointment led to leaving one organization in favor of another, the experience in question was shared on social media or a review aggregation site, creating negative word of mouth.
This is one of the headline findings from the latest Sitel Group whitepaper which surveyed the opinions and perspectives of over 2,000 consumers (1,000 in the U.K. and 1,000 in the U.S.). This research was conducted to understand why some brands over perform in terms of customer experience and what others can do to drive forward their brand loyalty.
Social Shaming Is on the Rise
In 2020, only 14% of respondents said they had actually posted a negative review. However, those polled also clarified that the reasons for being lenient were directly related to the pressure brands were under due to the impact of COVID-19.
Fast-forward 12 months and customer expectations are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. For instance, at the beginning of 2020, 73% of consumers said it only took a single negative experience for them to switch brands and 44% said they had posted negatively about their brand experiences.
Defining Positive CX In 2021
One thing has remained constant in all the consumer behavior research we have conducted: there is a clear return on investment (ROI) for brands who have mastered the art of delivering a positive customer experience. In 2021, 94% of consumers agree CX influences their choice of brand.
However, what is constantly in flux is how consumers define a good or poor customer experience.
As we continue the shift from the unfamiliar of 2020 and into 2021, the overwhelming majority of consumers on both sides of the Atlantic put good service above all else when it comes to explaining what they expect from brands.
Likewise, when asked to elaborate on what constitutes good service, respondents ranked friendly and knowledgeable staff above all other considerations.
Under the Digital Influence
As detailed in COVID-19: the CX Impact, the events of 2020 pushed 76% of consumers into digital channels to make purchases that pre-pandemic they would have preferred to make in person. And, because consumers were so impressed with the digital experience – particularly its speed, convenience and round-the-clock accessibility. In fact, 57% of respondents said they would continue with digital rather than revert to their old habits in the future.
This digital exposure is key to understanding this year’s findings. Fast and efficient service came third when respondents ranked the elements of good service in order of importance and, furthermore, 24/7 availability came fourth.
Prioritize Your People and Your Technology to Create Positive CX
Additionally, our research highlights that organizations wanting to build customer loyalty and a brand perception that also boosts their bottom line need to prioritize staff training and continued coaching. But beyond training and coaching, they must examine and evaluate tools and technologies that can add further support to employees, especially those on the CX frontline.
For instance, exploiting the benefits of non-voice channels, such as live chat, can instantly elevate the levels of customer experience in digital channels without having to increase headcounts. Or, they can adopt speech and text analytics within the contact center environment to better understand customers, their intentions and the issues that are driving contact volumes.
Likewise, a solid approach to self-service enables organizations to meet consumers’ round-the-clock accessibility expectations. This can begin with a simple set of FAQs before being built out in stages, based on feedback and changing issues, to incorporate communities and chatbots.
Just Ask to Drive Positive Word of Mouth
As for social media and its influence in generating word of mouth and reinforcing a positive – or negative – brand perception, there is good news. One third of consumers might start Tweeting when they feel a brand has fallen short, but 44% of respondents said they always posted to social media or a review aggregation site when they had a positive experience.
Furthermore, 30% of consumers say that they always post a review or comment if a brand asks them to. With this in mind, creating opportunities to request reviews should be built into every brands’ customer engagement strategy, transforming your customer base into an engine for positive word of mouth.
Our research shows that word of mouth matters. With 93% of consumers relying on customer reviews as part of their decision-making process, focusing on your CX isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have for every brand looking to generate sustainable business growth.
To learn more about the drivers of customer loyalty and how brands can engage consumers to drive positive word of mouth download the whitepaper Driving Customer Loyalty: Perception, Effort and Action.