Strengthening Customer Relationships In Times Of Economic Change

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Coronavirus pandemic has changed large and well-established companies overnight. Lockdown has placed pressure on the global economy. Some world leaders have been forced to call for easy lockdown measures.

On 16th March 2020, 380 stores across US and Canada bustled with typical Monday activity. And the next, all those stores went dark for at least two weeks, as people were told to stay distant to prevent the spread of disease.

What options are available for small and more vulnerable businesses to survive and improve their model during these times? One major blow to such businesses has been the loss of customers.

It is a lot cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. Depending on which study you trust, and the industry you are in, acquiring a new customer is from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining a current customer.

It makes sense. Keeping someone happy who is already connected to you is a far easier task than spending time and resources going out and searching for a new client.

Customer retention is vital for business growth because:

  • A retained customer is an indication of customer satisfaction and, in turn, their loyalty to your company.
  • Customer retention is lighter on your pockets than chasing new leads.
  • Better customer service would lead to greater chance of referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Customer retention can help in building a buyer persona and determining a strong target audience.
  • A satisfied customer is likely to purchase more often from you and drive up your repeated sales.
  • The return-on-investment is greater when you retain a customer instead of spending time and effort in acquiring new ones.

According to a study by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, a mere increase of 5% in customer retention can boost a company’s profits by 25% or more.

Customer service is all about solving problems and boosting customer satisfaction. Although customer service can include the service a company provides in helping a customer make the right purchase, it mostly includes the service provided after the purchase.

It is the service provided to ensure that your customer knows the best use of your product, guide them through any issues, and make any wrongs right.

When people talk about customer service, it is usually that they are talking about the service received after the purchase i.e. after becoming a customer.

Customer experience (CX) is different from customer service. It takes into account every contact a customer has with a brand.

From the moment of their discovery of you, through their research, the purchase, receiving and using the product, and the experience they have with the brand after the purchase.

Customer experience is not just about the direct interaction you have with your customer. It also includes how your brand impacts their sentiments, it includes every moment your customer encounters your brand.

Both customer service and customer experience are essential for the success of your business.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a computer science field, focused on creating machines that seem like they possess human intelligence. These machines’ intelligence is “artificial” because it is created by humans, and it does not exist naturally.

Before the pandemic, customer service expectations were already high, according to HubSpot research that states 93% of customers report that customer service is a crucial driver of brand loyalty.

However, when the covid-19 pandemic took hold of the United States in March, the industry entered a new reckoning age. Call volumes to pharmacies, airlines, and restaurants rose.

Meanwhile, social distancing thinned out contact centers and, amid widespread economic uncertainty, companies faced heightened pressure to satisfy and retain as many customers as possible.

To shorten wait times and meet the increased customer demand, companies have been moving to CX technologies at accelerated rates.

A chatbot is an AI software that can simulate a conversation or a chat with a user in a human-understandable (natural) language through mobile applications, messaging apps, websites or the telephone.

AI chatbots are a specific type of chatbots that use machine learning (ML) to understand the context and intent of a question before formulating a response.

These chatbots are capable of generating their own answers to more complicated questions asked by their users by using natural-language responses.

Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of AI. ML algorithms are computer-implementable instructions that take a dataset as input and find out patterns within the dataset that were previously undiscovered. ML models learn from experience and self-correction.

Therefore, the more data they encounter, the more experience they gain. Your train dataset should be sufficiently large to train your ML model well.

AI chatbots use ML. Therefore, the more you use and train these bots, the more experience they gain and the more they learn, and the better they operate with the user.

Due to the absence of many customer support team members at contact centers, companies have been forced to consider and explore the option of employing chatbots and other humanlike information aids.

Chatbots and robots have picked up the slack at call centers with notable success. World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers of Disease Control have adopted chatbots to answer millions of queries.

A robot is a machine that may or may not have to be intelligent to perform specific tasks and has a physical form.

Intelligent robots have sensors attached to them along with their own powerful onboard processors and memory capacity. All these features allow them to reproduce the capacities of the human senses.

Use of robots is likely to increase in factories because of the social distancing rules. Robots in South Korea are measuring temperatures and distributing hand sanitizers.

A subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com called JD Logistics used autonomous vehicles to deliver packages to hospitals in Wuhan without physical contact during the coronavirus outbreak.

For the validation of the recipient’s identity, the robots used facial recognition technology before delivering the packages.

“People will prefer to go to a place that has fewer workers and more machines because they feel they can lower overall risk,” futurist Martin Ford told the BBC.

Can voice AI play the role of a retail clerk? Can it change the way physical retail happens?

Voice AI can provide unique solutions to the customer issues of the coronavirus pandemic period. Customers are worried about standing close to each other or to staff inside physical stores.

Voice assistants present a path to offering futuristic physical retail experiences that seem personalized to the shopper with no violation of social distancing guidelines or impinging on customers’ comfort.

Properly oriented AI can inform a customer if a particular item is in stock for pickup. Such a system could also provide customers the facility to digitally purchase something from their cars without entering the store, and then have the item brought to their trunk at a specific time.

Conclusion

Every successful company prioritizes strengthening relationships with its current customers.

These challenging times have forced businesses around the world to think about the ways to replace humans with machines and technology to perform tasks that are crucial for smooth operation.

The post-pandemic world is likely to be a lot different when it comes to the ways companies operate. You should look around and be prepared for the future.

CEO @ Inqline — inqline.com l AI Hub events l Hosting 30-hours data science hackathons l Philanthropist l World Traveler l Athlete