'Yesterday was history, who knows what there is gonna be when we meet again?
Will you smile and tell the world about me?
Can there be no doubt about me – I was your friend –
As I gaze upon a sea of smiling faces…'
- 'Sea of Smiling Faces' by the Bee Gees
As a business, you want a sea of smiling faces in your contact database. You want people to evangelise about your product or service, to tell their friends, family and social media followers, and most importantly, to come back.
Customer retention doesn’t always get the attention it deserves compared to the energy businesses put into getting those customers in the first place. However, it’s worthwhile:
(Image courtesy of Hubspot)
Bad news: cost of customer acquisition has risen by 50 percent in the last five years. Still, there is a silver lining: a five percent increase in customer retention produces a 25 percent increase in profit. It’s clearly worthwhile to invest in keeping the connections you have. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.
How to include automation and AI in your customer retention plan
On a budget
- Trial some automation tools for communication or customer feedback.
- Adopt self-service tools like a simple chatbot for first-tier queries.
- Top-down – in SMEs, the driving force behind AI adoption is likely to be coming from the C-suite.
- One or two people to take the lead on research and testing AI and other automation solutions.
- Use machine learning and natural language processing to expand the capabilities of self-service bots.
- Use ‘personal assistant’ technology to improve the efficacy of customer relationship management (CRM) software.
- Employ accountable and auditable AI tools to inform process decision-making with data-driven recommendations.
- Top-down – drivers are still likely to be C-suite, but with larger organisations or those looking to really adopt AI rather than dabble, then you would also work with an experienced partner or provider from a strategy perspective.
- A small, agile team to identify key areas for improvement, research and test solutions.
Pushing the limit
- Empower customer service representatives to spend more time with customers and help solve complex issues by automating most repetitive tasks.
- Use AI tools and machine learning to inform decision-making at all steps in the supply chain, governance and process management so that customers benefit from a fully optimised business.
- This has to be business-wide. There will be a push for change among employees who are invested in working within a business that uses AI for good, and who have seen the benefit for themselves and for customers.
- Training is a must to achieve goals that go beyond the bottom line.
- Technology partnerships with providers that don’t just sell hype – they offer real, unique and tangible benefits.
Responsible AI and direct customer interfaces
Automate your advertising to improve your targeting and reach. Then, leverage AI to take the high volume, repeatable data produced by online advertising and provide recommendations that will optimise your ad strategy. This is perfect for a re-marketing campaign to keep customers clicking and coming back for more. For example, take a company like Persado, which uses data to put together the ‘perfect’ ad for each individual user – that’s personalisation at its finest.
Manually analysing social media trends is a thing of the past. With artificial intelligence, you can monitor consumer behaviour patterns and figure out which customers are – or are more likely to be – advocates for your brand, and which are not interested.
In 2019, there are about 2.6 billion AI-powered retail chatbots in the world. By 2023, Juniper Research estimates that number will be 22 billion. Improved natural language processing (NLP) means customers are increasingly happy to talk to and purchase through self-service mediums.
Chatbots are available 24/7, meaning if a customer has a question then they can get an instant answer. Delayed response times have a crucial impact on customer satisfaction. InsideSales has found that the best time to respond is within five minutes, but if there’s a delay of more than 10 minutes, the chance you will lose that sale is increased by 400 percent.
CRM automation support for customer service reps
Often, service reps have lost the relationship with a customer before it’s even begun. That customer might have waited too long for responses or been shuttled to the wrong department. They’ve become disengaged with the process. Within a standard CRM, artificial intelligence solutions can help to rank queries by urgency, classify tickets and automatically assign them or provide notifications for recommended next steps to your team.
Your CRM shouldn’t just be a tool for reporting closed deals to management, and it certainly shouldn’t add a bureaucratic layer to your sales and retention process. Rather, with AI, it should enhance the productivity of the people that are there to make customers happy.
Dashboards and decisions: how to optimise for customer satisfaction
Everyone loves a good dashboard. However, though the data might be in black and white, the actions you should take are often not as clear. So, what do all those numbers actually mean? Either you need a team of data analysts and subject matter experts on hand, or, you use algorithms to build a contextual framework and knowledge base that you can draw from at any time.
If you want customers to stick around, then you need to prove their trust is well-placed with good decision-making over the long term.
The roadmap to redemption retention
Actions speak louder than words. Every company will say they value their customers as their number one priority. Yet, we’ve all felt the sting of a great sales experience followed by poor customer service. It can get to the point that customers almost expect to be let down. You don’t want to add your business to their list of disappointments. Instead, build a technology roadmap to use AI in a way that will delight and amaze your customers, and ensure that their relationship with your business keeps on…
'… stayin’ aliiiive…'