You’ve Defined Your Brand’s Flaws and Foibles — Now You Need An Effective Corrective Action Plan

Much like your annual New Year’s Resolutions, the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) comes into play after you’ve taken stock of your brand’s faults and failures. After all, you’ve gathered business intelligence, implemented data analytics, and embraced the benchmark process throughout the past quarter, so you’re completely in-tune with what works (and what doesn’t) across your company. Now, however, it’s time to grab that metaphorical hammer so you can knock down what’s beyond repair and rebuild what needs to be fixed.

Whether you’re responding to direct customer feedback, or identifying weak spots within your strategy, corrective action plans empower your brand to restore customer service to its full potential. In return, these measures will ultimately influence your company’s preventive action plans, as you will be able to look ahead and remain aware of any problems that might be lurking underneath the surface of your present strategy.

According to OpenEI’s definition, both corrective and preventive action plans consist of improvements made to an organization’s processes in an effort to eliminate causes of non-conformities or other undesirable situations. “It is usually a set of actions that laws or regulations require an organization to take in manufacturing, documentation, procedures, or systems to rectify and eliminate recurring nonperformance.” While corrective actions are implemented in response to customer complaints, unacceptable levels of product non-conformance, issues identified during an internal audit, as well as adverse or unstable trends in product and process monitoring, preventive actions are implemented in response to the identification of potential sources of non-conformity.

But what goes into creating an effective corrective action plan exactly? Follow these five steps as you draft your strategy:

1.  Define the problem.

Before you can tackle the problem, you must define the problem. Be sure to remain clear and concise so all parties involved are on the same page. Once you understand what’s wrong, you can then begin to make it right. Determine what’s happening and how it contradicts your intention. From here, your team can develop a road map that leads your brand back to its ideal destination. If you can name the issue at hand, you can ultimately find its solution. Be sure to listen to your customers constantly, as they will be your most reliable source for insight into the issues that arise during their regular interactions with your company.

2.  Establish accountability.

Once you’ve determined the problem and developed the solution, you must establish accountability among those who are tasked with rectifying the issue. Each party must know what they’re responsible for in this scenario and how their actions contribute to the greater good of the project in question. They need to know the value of their role in detail to ensure that their performance remains consistent and strong. These team members must understand how to operate independently and jointly in order to comprehend how their specific role feeds into the bigger picture. By assigning small, more manageable tasks, you also empower more employees to become invested in the company’s overall success, as they now have the capacity to impact its future CX strategies.

3.  Create quantifiable solutions.

There’s no way to prove your actions will have the desired impact if you don’t create solutions that can be measured over time. You want to fix the problem for good, after all. However, companies have been known to implement changes they assume will remedy the issue, only to find that the problem persists. They neglect to map their approach and assess their progress. They believe they know what’s best and what will work even though their prior failures prove otherwise. Thus, when you finally decide to put the CAP into action, you need to understand which key performance indicators (KPIs) you plan to observe and measure so you can regularly evaluate its impact on CX.

4.  Set attainable deadlines.

While problems certainly don’t adhere to any sort of calendar, your solutions should. When you choose to implement your solution, you must also set up a timeline in order to measure your corrective action plan’s effectiveness. Some issues might take longer to resolve than others, so your deadline must allow your team enough time to address the problem and implement the solution. Each solution might also require multiple steps on the path to complete implementation, so your employees might benefit from a series of deadlines that afford them the freedom to proceed with diligence and care. Deadlines serve as check-ins, essentially, so these instances will provide your team with ample opportunity to examine its progress and realign their approach, if necessary.

5.  Monitor progress regularly.

Because the aforementioned deadlines give you and your team numerous opportunities to review your progress, everyone involved can easily monitor the solution’s success in real time. While it’s important to establish the baseline concept for the solution to your problem, the hypothesis driving your team’s work might not prove accurate over time. Customers can be unpredictable and how they react to your response might not be what you expected. Thus, it’s critical to continually monitor how the changes you’ve enacted are performing under the scrutiny of those for whom it was intended all along. How you feel about the solution and how customers feel about the solution don’t always align, so your CAP must account for their perspectives at every stage.

Geo-specific game-plans: North America

When crafting a customer experience game-plan CX practitioners should consider the geographic location of their target audience if they want to fully meet expectations and delight customers.

As mentioned by Martin Ortlieb, User Experience Researcher at Google, humans are more similar than they are different. However, an awareness of what those differences are and how culture contributes to them could be the key to having a competitive edge with customers in a certain location.

Murray Goodwin, Director, CX Advisory, IPSOS MORI Customer Experience notes: “Understanding how your customers interact with your products and services within different cultures can make or break your commercial successes.”

He adds: “We recently helped a global CPG manufacturer interpret the role that laundry fragrance plays around the globe. Our research revealed a whole host of interesting quirks, but in the US in particular, we learned that having clean-smelling clothes plays a far more important role than it does across Europe, as people were more likely to greet one another with a hug in the west and therefore the way you smell has more significant implications for peoples’ perceptions of your social status.”

He urges brands to remember that people give different NPS scores in different countries. “Selling new cars in the US? We’ve shown that your customers will be far more likely to recommend you to others than if you were selling the same cars in Italy.”

Market consensus agrees that the United States is the most advanced region for brand experience and customer segmentation in most industries, with trends emerging first in the US and then spreading to other countries a few weeks later. As these customers have a higher chance of exposure to world-leading experiences, people based in the US are likely to have higher expectations than their global counterparts.

Support for this argument was witnessed in Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service report which polled 5,000 individuals across Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of the US customers surveyed:

 

  • 62% have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience *
  • 43% have done this in the last 12 months *
  • 42% feel the quality of customer service is getting worse *
  • 56% have higher expectations for customer service now than they had a year ago 

 

*This rate exceeded the global average.

Here, CX Network looks at how CX practitioners in North America are reacting to industry trends in their mission to impress US customers and prospects.  This piece will delve into exclusive insights from a research group of US CX professionals from the 2019 Global State of Customer Experience Report to map out key localised customer engagement trends and pain-points.

Top trends for US CX practitioners

Omni-channel: The omni-channel model and the notion of meeting customers in their channel of choice appears to be a much higher priority for US practitioners than their international peers.

If they want to field the omni-channel set-up, brands need to have the correct resourcing in place. In regards to the offline vs digital prioritisation, in one of the recent CX Network Advisory Board calls, Board member Claire Hill, Customer Experience Director of Studio Retail Limited noted: “In previous years there was a laser focus on being digital first – but now we are no longer talking about the online vs offline piece. We are shifting away from just going digital for the sake of it. Internal operational changes are in place so we aren’t pushing the digital agenda forward – we very clearly display phone numbers for customer contact or live chat. We are allowing the customer to interact with us via the channel they choose.”

To inform the operational strategy that would ensure their resourcing was flexible enough to respond to different channels, Claire recalls: “….we turned to historical data to spot trends to inform decisions about having resourcing in the right areas. When a new channel is introduced there may be a spike where take-up is higher than expected – this will even out and help to inform future decisions.”

Human-centred design: Human-centered design centres on providing an experience that solves the needs of a target audience. US practitioners seem to have more interest in this area than the global average, which is encouraging as customer-first cultures need to be nurtured and these exercises contribute to the foundations needed to roll-out more predictive customer service efforts. According to Microsoft’s report, US customers appreciate proactive customer service notifications. Therefore, brands which can pre-empt the needs of their US customers place themselves in a strong position to win loyalty.

At the Omnichannel Exec Forum, Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis highlighted the importance of validating concepts using design thinking approaches. The process of 6 Up-sketching in workshops was discussed – coming up with as many ideas as humanly possible, as hearing ideas from peers can spark creativity. He noted that John Lewis puts ideas generated from workshops in front of its customers to see which ones are popular. In fact, customers visit the John Lewis Customer Hub in person four times a week to inform the validation cycle followed by researchers.

Investment priorities 

Customer acquisition and contact centre solutions seem to have attracted more budget from this section of customer experience practitioners in comparison to their global counterparts.

Customer acquisition:  Healthy lines of new business are critical in the US as customers may be at a high risk of churn. According to Microsoft’s research, the number of US customers that have left a brand because of poor customer service in the last 12 months exceeds the global average.  Businesses should capitalise on this switching economy by making their brand desirable to their competitor’s neglected high-lifetime value customers. Advocates should be empowered to entice new customers and brands should turn themselves into digital listeners offering multiple options for conversion.

Contact centre solutions & Customer insight: It is logical that this batch of CX professionals are investing in bolstering contact centres with more training and equipment with the strong emphasis from the region on knowledgeable customer service representatives.  

A holistic and, if possible, 360° view of the customer will helpful to brands as the majority of US customers surveyed agreed that customer service representatives should know their contact, product and service information/history. This dashboard view provides agents and frontline staff with a more intimate understanding of customers, the services they are subscribed to, their past behaviours and real-time preferences. This rich, relevant insight and real time visualisation of data can be leveraged to proactively engage with customers’ needs in real-time when it really matters.

Key Challenges 

Building a customer-first culture: Similar to practitioners based in countries outside of the US, it appears difficult for businesses to fully tear away from a business-first, product focused end-to-end business mind-set in order to live and breathe a customer-first culture. Customer-centric validation techniques are crucial for educating researchers on improving products and processes. This is especially important in the US as customers in this region seem to be more willing to switch brands after a bad experience.

Linking CX initiatives to ROI:  ROI and board buy-in are significant challenges for all CX practitioners. Both areas are crucial for unlocking future CX investments. CX has a strong influence on business success hence the strong level of investment going into CX, but this of course triggers a desire from senior management for results. The inability to communicate the financial business case can jeopardize the future of a finely crafted CX program.

Final Remark 

In order to win market-share in a certain location, brands should arm themselves with any insights that will give them the edge over their competitors.  A few of these game-changing strategies may be hidden in the regionally influenced preferences of your customers. To capture these preferences, companies should mine their Voice of the Customer data and use it to inform their personalisation methodologies going forward.

For this region in particular, businesses would be well placed to remember that US customers appear to be ready and willing to leave a company because of bad customer experiences. Therefore, when servicing these customers in this area a conscious effort should be made to provide a solid service and recover experiences as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you want more detail on these findings click here

On the Road to Key Account Management, Customer Journey Maps Pave the Path

Prior to the introduction of social media and smartphones, the customer journey was typically linear. Consumers often traveled from the top of funnel to the point of sale with nary a detour. But, now that there are numerous inlets for onboarding, leaders must ensure that each available touchpoint offers customers a coherent brand experience at every stage of the average lifecycle. That’s where customer journey mapping comes into play.

Originally, companies used customer journey maps as an opportunity to nail down any customer experience issues that might arise. However, customer journey maps have become an integral part of the customer experience development process, as these tools offer leaders insight into how consumers might perceive and interact with the brand at all points of entry. Analyzing the customer journey from the initial point of contact to the inevitable point of sale can help leaders determine the best way to nurture such accounts along their path to purchase.

While discovering customer pain points will always prove useful, the fruits of these labors can’t be reaped if leaders don’t have the appropriate guidelines in place to rectify issues and alleviate strain. Thus, customer journey maps provide each member of an organization—from the C-suite to the frontline—with insight into how to manage every single account at the most basic level. Customers now expect instant results, after all, so companies must be prepared to serve every need in real time at any point along the customer journey.
To ensure that customers don’t encounter any obstacles on their path to purchase, companies need to hone their key account management strategies. Because customers and clients can now enter the funnel at multiple touchpoints simultaneously, leaders must integrate methods that’ll guarantee consistency and relevancy in an environment where disparate channels can limit the brand’s ability to satisfy the customer’s wants and needs from the moment of first contact.
Before companies can achieve effective key account management, leaders must first recognize that it’s difficult to treat all customers and clients equally. While everyone deserves top-notch customer service, leaders must segment their client base in order to determine which accounts are the most crucial for their brand’s continued success. Segmentation, as it stands, empowers leaders to assess and categorize customer relationships in an effort to deliver appropriate levels of service at critical moments throughout the customer journey.

Typically, basic account segmentation falls into one of three categories:

Tier I: Significant annual revenue and/or strategic value
Tier II: Potential significant annual growth and/or customer lifetime value
Tier III: All remaining customer accounts

Ultimately, resources can become strained if employees are forced to devote equal amounts of time to clients that don’t ultimately yield the same level of profit. Thus, forming more targeted customer relationships affords companies the opportunity to boost loyalty, sales, and profits. Of course, while exceptional service must be the standard for every client, companies must use this baseline to take relationships with key accounts to the next level.

Segmentation certainly isn’t an exact science, but this process enables organizations to break customers into manageable groups as leaders work to make sense of an increasingly saturated market. Despite the allure, leaders must not become distracted by those accounts that promise the greatest revenue gains, as relationship value must also be derived from the client’s potential for strategic partnerships over time. It’s easy for brands to become preoccupied with the “shiny” prospects that pose the highest potential for profitability. However, it’s important to start small and proceed with caution so as not to strain your resources—or your client’s resources—as you work to establish a synergy that empowers both companies to succeed.

To guarantee that both new and existing customer relationships flourish, leaders will want to train key account managers, as they will become the client’s first point of contact for any service needs they might have throughout their lifecycle. Because they’re responsible for nurturing said strategic, long-term relationships, they must be well equipped with an intimate knowledge of the client and their personal goals, as collaboration remains the cornerstone of any effective, proactive partnership.

But, with the help of customer journey mapping, companies have the capacity to understand clients in new ways as they work to hone their key account management strategies. With critical information in hand, companies have the tools they need to acquaint themselves with prospects right from the start and use data from these early interactions to tailor engagements to meet prospects’ needs in an effort to convert and retain clients. Every interaction matters, especially in a market with ample competitors. By knowing precisely what the client hopes to accomplish, key account managers can provide personalized service that ultimately benefits both parties every step of the way, thereby carving a path that leads to profitability for all involved.

It’s Not as Easy to Do Business With You as You’d Like to Think It Is

Your executive team is committed to customer experience (CX) success. On paper, your customer journey map looks strong. But that doesn’t mean your organization is easy to do business with.

The proliferation of new channels and touchpoints brings ever greater complexity to customer interactions—yours included. Plus, your current processes and silos may create bottlenecks for customers trying to make a purchase, get service, or expand their business with you.

You can use all the shiny objects you want to add glitter to your marketing and service interactions. But it’s only putting lipstick on a pig if your organization isn’t easy to do business with. Maybe you’ve added more mobile app functionality, for example, but your customers are pinching, swiping, and scrolling to the point of frustration to accomplish a basic task. Or you’ve launched an attractive marketing promotion, but your contact center agents don’t have any information on it for customers who call with questions.

Whether your organization is easy to do business with cuts to the core of the customer experience. It can give you a leading indicator of future trends for customer relationships. After all, your organization can have a great product, a great brand, and even great intentions for CX, yet still be difficult to do business with.

Perhaps most important, “Are you easy to do business with?” is a question that if explored and measured thoroughly, can quickly reveal whether the various pieces of the CX puzzle are working together as they should.

In fact, once you’ve examined whether customers think your organization is easy to do business with and use the resulting feedback to improve, you’ll find that it’s one of the best ways to ensure that your organization’s customer-facing operations (as well as those that support them) are living up to the spirit of your CRM and CX efforts.

Following are three lessons I learned while exploring that pivotal question, “Are you easy to do business with?”

Truly understand, and measure on a regular basis, whether customers think that your organization is easy to do business with.
Internal naysayers will claim that, of course you’re easy to do business with. After all, the CX efforts are refined, leadership is customer-focused, and the company puts the customer first in everything it does.

But, wait, not so fast…

Whether a company is easy to do business with is not solely determined by the efficiency of processes and programs it has in place. Instead, it’s a reflection of customer perceptions that can rarely be gleaned from operational data. To find out whether customers really believe that your organization is easy to work with requires a dedicated effort.

Ideally, you can attain this view of your customers’ true perceptions through a combination of methods. Surveys and one-on-one interviews with customers—preferably through a third party to ensure that feedback is candid—are exceptionally valuable and powerful tools to gather external perspectives. Speech and text analytics tools that make real-time sense of customer feedback, moods, and reactions are also extremely helpful. Customer-initiated digital feedback offers a goldmine of information, as do online communities that marketers and customer experience leaders can use as a listening tool. Use as many of them as you can to really understand where your organization falls on the “easy to do business with” spectrum.

Define what “easy to do business with” means for every
customer-facing role.

One of my aha moments in CX was when a particularly savvy customer-facing employee confided that she didn’t know if she had the ability to make it easier for customers to do business with the company, or even what that would entail. And she was right! Most people don’t intuitively know what something as encompassing as “easy to do business with” means.

To address this reality, we instituted a series of workshops across all departments throughout the company. These interactive sessions begin by exploring why it’s important for us to be easy to do business with. We then delve into what that means for each person in the room, and more specifically, which behaviors for each role will make the company’s vision come to life. Through these workshops, our employees helped to define what it meant to be “easy to do business with” and how to achieve it. Defining expectations is important, because most people have different interpretations of what makes an organization easy to do business with.

Apply what you learn across the organization.

Once you know the customer perception of the ease of doing business with your organization, you’ve defined what that ease means for various departments, and you have a framework in place that outlines required behaviors for specific roles, it’s time to use that information throughout the company to guide other decisions and processes. This includes hiring the right people, rewarding the right behaviors, and creating processes that complement them.

Perhaps, most important, institutionalizing these practices and encouraging these behaviors ultimately creates and nurtures a true, customer-centric culture that not only rewards behaviors that make it easy for customers, but also inherently encourages them among all employees.

Asking your customers if your organization is easy to do business with, and seeking candid answers, isn’t easy. But it’s one of the most powerful ways to ensure not only that the customer relationship and CX programs you oversee are working well, and that they’re being successfully applied where it matters most: with customers.

 

About the Author
Nancy Porte, CCXP, is the vice president of Global Customer Experience at Verint, a board member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association and a frequent speaker at industry events where often presents on her passion: developing meaningful customer experiences through the collaboration of numerous business functions and effective employee engagement.

What?! Another Poor Customer Experience?

How often do you encounter this situation? You’re working with a reputable and reliable company and the event quickly turns into a fiasco. It moves so far from delivering customer success that you ask yourself if this could be the same company.

To make matters worse, it’s often a company that prides itself on delivering the highest level of customer experience (CX). Doesn’t it make you wonder how much substance or truth is behind their claim?

My recent misfortune, which I will describe shortly, reinforces the message I continually deliver to clients: Every company looking to maintain loyalty and grow financially should continually ask themselves, “Would our customer’s experience be considered easy and effective?” and “When was the last time we looked at our customer journey?”

I will share with you some proven ideas to become better connected with your customers, and deliver loyalty-building and profit-growing results. But, before I begin, I’ll set the stage with the story that precipitated this article.

I needed to contact a company for TV support. When I did, as in the past, I am addressed as a preferred customer and they thank me profusely. Oh yes, I have worked with them for more than 12 years. By now, you would think, my confirmation information, my issue, etc., will travel with me regardless of where I’m transferred during the interaction. After 4 transfers and repeating the issue each time, I was able to resolve the issue. Or, so I thought. After I hung up, the issue recurred. So, I called again…three more transfers…resolution, finally—and an email confirmation, which wasn’t part of the process the first time.

It’s about the customer experience…delivery and results

I wonder how many companies really follow through on the CX strategy they’ve put in place. Why? Think about how often companies fail to deliver a quality customer experience regardless the investment they’ve made.

It’s clear from my recent experience that the TV support process has never been thoroughly vetted from a customer’s perspective, which is where the customer journey map process would be so useful. This is evidenced by the complexity of my having to weave through multiple barriers to resolution and the company’s poor execution. It makes me wonder how many other companies own CX strategies are built on a house of cards.

The path to delivering positive customer experiences begins with understanding the customer journey

Delivering a consistently satisfactory customer experience is more challenging than one realizes. Organizations learn that there is much more to the job of engaging and retaining customers than just putting some processes in place and moving on to the next challenge. While they may recognize the need to provide easy and rewarding experiences, they’re challenged with designing, developing, executing, and delivering an integrated customer experience strategy. In fact, many businesses still do not walk the journey from their customer’s view.

Today, there are still far too many of you who feel you already know what needs to be done and how to do it without taking time to walk it from your customer’s side. Well, let me help you: That is simply not going to work!

Know how to ask the right questions about your process

The challenge is to move your game to the next level by taking an approach that links strategy, vision, measurements, technology, organization, engagement, and the like. At the same time, nail down customers’ outcomes and then design around it. You can no longer be good at CX; you have to be better—even best at it. Any less than this no longer suffices.

I like customer journey mapping as a powerful tool of choice. Customer journey mapping is a proven tool that allows you to focus on the customers’ experiences with your company. This way, you learn more about your customer: how they define success, how to deliver successful customer experiences, and how to make them happy while growing your profits.

To move from delivering a good experience to a better or great experience requires that you set aside past practices and consider some changes. These are 12 that I share with clients:

  1. Have your processes been customer journey mapped?
  2. Have the barriers to successful performance been identified and removed?
  3. Has the journey map allowed a good look at your internal technology, is that technology easy to use, and does it make the right information available to the right people when they need it?
  4. Is there organizational alignment?
  5. Has the journey map added clarity to your rules of channel engagement?
  6. Has the journey map provided the clarity needed to demonstrate why your silos must melt away and set the course for a mind-set that foregoes silo thinking to facilitating customer success?
  7. Are your customer processes aligned to metrics that gather insight to move forward?
  8. What personas are you addressing?
  9. What type of feedback do you want to collect, and how will you engage customers to obtain it?
  10. Is your organization robust with passionate employees who are engaged?
  11. Has the journey mapping effort given you the needed focus on the customer segments, micro-experiences, and channel details that are at the core of your strategic business processes?
  12. How will you measure success?

My takeaway

How you answer these questions will give you insight into whether your CX effort is built on a house of cards, like too many businesses today, or built to deliver those customer loyalty–building experiences—or, as I like to say, that aha customer moment, one that delights your customer as it delivers customer success.

 

Dennis GershowitzAbout the Author
Dennis Gershowitz is founder and principal of DG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in driving service revenues and profits through the development and implementation of customer experience management (CEM) strategy and service operations improvements. Contact Dennis at dennisg@dgassociates.net

Corrective Action Planning in Customer Experience Management

Corrective Action Planning in Customer Experience Management

Corrective Action Planning in Customer Experience Management

A natural result of benchmarking your current state customer experience against your CX goals is change. Of course, you’ll need to make changes to your customer experience management strategy over the short and long term. But, remember, an essential part of that planning is determining how you’ll respond to issues that customers raise—especially concerns raised by high-value clients. That’s what we’ll focus on here.

Take these five steps to get your customer-focused corrective action plans in place.

Prepare a corrective action plan – Corrective action plans address critical external customer issues. Formulate your plans with two goals in mind: quickly responding to key accounts based up their experience and issues that emerge; addressing internal systemic issues that negatively impact customer-related processes. The latter are often discovered in addressing the former.

Create closed-loop Action Alerts A critical element of a corrective action plan is to “close the loop” on every action needed. Create alerts that allow you to track the progress of actions taken to resolve immediate customer concerns, as well as address larger systemic issues. This will enable you to be sure that issues are attended to and resolved. Or, they’ll alert you to take any further action required.

Build in accountability for results Assign responsibility to frontline and management-level personnel to carry out the corrective action plans. Clearly delineate their objectives and roles in taking immediate corrective action, as well as recommending solutions to longer-term systemic issues.

Verify and communicate results Develop a system that allows you to verify that the corrective actions taken have resolved customer issues. For immediate concerned raised by a customer (especially a key account), be proactive and reach out to other customers who may have experienced the same issue and present your solution.

Additionally, confirm internally that you’ve address any systemic problems that caused the more immediate issues in the first place. Action Alerts are essential to this process.

Once you’ve verified that an immediate concern or systemic issue has been resolved, communicate that out to key stakeholders. Those stakeholders may include customers affected by the issue, account managers, sales or customer service leaders, employees in teams related to the issue.

Review the plan – Your corrective action plan should be flexible enough to evolve over time. Examine your plan’s progress and results on a quarterly basis and make appropriate changes to the plan based on that insight.

Corrective action is part of the Act phase—along with employee engagement and change management—and one of the 12 of the components that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.

5 Keys to Maintaining Customers Relationships

Consumers and B2B purchasers are spoiled for choice. Nearly any product or service they desire is available at the click of a button, in a 100-page catalog, or a short drive away. And they’re spending on those wants and needs. Consider: Retail sales grew 3.8% in 2016 and is predicted to increase between 3.7 and 4.2% in 2017, according to National Retail Federation. And the Institute for Supply Management predicts manufacturing revenue to increase 4.6% and B2B non-manufacturing revenue to increase 4.1% this year, as well.

But that doesn’t guarantee growth for sellers. In fact, while some companies thrive, others stall or fail completely. What do these growth companies do differently than their less successful counterparts? Businesses that flourish tend to use five key strategies to customer engagement and interactions, laying the groundwork for customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

1. Engage, Engage, Engage

Customers want to be served, but they also want to be noticed. They don’t want to feel as if they’re consumers first and people second. In a retail or B2B setting, don’t just pitch the company’s wares; strike up a conversation with the customer and actively listen to what they’re saying. Respond to their questions or comments in detail. This will give them a sense of belonging and help to build trust.

2. Be Available

You never know when your customers are going to need you. B2C businesses should have multiple touchpoints for service, including chat, social, and traditional contact centers. B2B companies will see significant benefits from monthly courtesy calls to their high-value customers, just to check in. Send customers relevant content, such as links to how-to articles, industry news, and product updates. If you’re available to your customers when they need you, they won’t turn to a competitor.

3. Take Advice

You’re never going to survive as a business if you don’t take customer feedback to heart. Feedback helps to highlight problems and opportunities that those within the organization might never notice. Being attentive and concerned, acting on customer input wherever possible, and keeping customers apprised of your actions and outcomes communicates to customers that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep their business.

4. Keep Improving

It’s not possible to make every single customer happy all the time. But if you continuously work to improve your customer experience and always aim for fairness and satisfaction, you’ll come out ahead. Complacency is not an option in today’s customer-driven markets.

5. Focus on the Experience

One of the biggest mistakes that a company makes is attributing customer satisfaction to customer loyalty. It’s more complicated than that. Satisfied customers often leave for a competitor that offers a better customer experience—however customers define it: better service, product, price, attentiveness or responsiveness, etc. Customers are driven by their buying experience. So, understand what aspects of your customer experience keeps them loyal to your company and continue to focus on and excel in those areas.

Do Customers Know You Care?

Retaining today’s fickle customers takes more than discounts and loyalty points. Customers want to know that businesses are there to help improve their life or solve a problem—not just empty their wallet. Here are three ways companies can demonstrate the kind of customer commitment that helps retain customers and bolster loyalty.

Express Compassion and Empathy

Stellar service has long been and continues to be a leading ingredient for promoting a healthy long-term customer relationship. Compassion and empathy during service interactions show that your business cares about its customers. Resolving customers’ issues quickly also highlight that you take their concerns seriously. Acting on customers’ feedback in another way to demonstrate empathy that helps to cement customer loyalty.

Stay Abreast of the Customer’s Contentment

A business should keep in touch with customers from the moment they make a purchase. Automated thank-you emails give the customers a sense of appreciation after they buy from you. An onboarding series can help customers get acquainted with your products, services, and processes, which improves their customer experience. Follow-up messages are also excellent ways to see how customers like a product, as well as proactively uncover any issues.

Frequent check-ups based on customers purchasing habits will increase the likelihood that customers will stay engaged. Personalizing those messages helps keeps customers engaged and allows you to send relevant messages at the right time.

Fresh and Frequent Content

Great content adds value to the customer experience. It engages customers through articles, videos, events, and the like that provide information, education, and entertainment. Savvy marketing teams use content to educate customers on all aspects of their products, services, and brand’s unique abilities. High-value content builds brand affinity and bolsters customer loyalty.

The Key Difference Between Loyalty and Retention

Retention marketers know there is a difference between customer loyalty and retention. Without a proper understanding of the two concepts, it’s not possible to retain valued customers and grow wallet share. Consider: A business that keeps customers at all costs is not effectively managing its resources. It’s more cost effective—and more profitable—to use the concepts of loyalty and retention to ensure that customers are so delighted with current product and service offerings that they’ll stay loyal and buy more. That also means it’s better business to identify customers who aren’t a good fit and be willing to cut the cord.

Loyalty Means Growth

Loyal customers conduct themselves in a way that produces positive outcomes for themselves and the business. They stay loyal to a preferred brand despite, for example, price breaks or promotions that competitors offer. Businesses looking to bolster loyalty of turn to formal loyalty programs designed to encourage specific behaviors, such as achieving certain spending levels. Loyalty programs designed well will encourage habits that benefit the customer and business.

When Retention Means Decline

Retention is commonly thought of as the process of keeping a customer. Loyalty programs are one element of retention efforts that aim to not only keep customers, but also increase their value. Retention efforts that aim to keep customers who aren’t a good fit—e.g., they have a high cost to serve, they only buy on special—are likely to waste money on customers who will leave as soon as a competitor presents a better offer. Instead of focusing on price promotions and specials, companies should focus their retention efforts on the customer experience, such as providing education through content, outstanding customer service, and insider-only access to special events.

Why Use Both

Businesses will see the best outcomes from combining loyalty programs with other retention campaigns. Doing so helps to ensure that customers keep coming back—and have plenty of reasons to do so. Implementing a mix of loyalty and other retention-focused campaigns will also help to make sure that you’re build long-lasting relationships with the right customers: those who will provide the greatest returns, versus those with a high cost to serve.