4 Keys to Satisfying 21st Century Customers Make it easy for them, from interacting with you to paying their bill.

By Chidike Samuelson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Artem Varnitsin | EyeEm | Getty Images

Achieving customer satisfaction has always been the priority of every serious business. This is a straightforward truth. However, the means to achieving customer satisfaction has always been anything but straightforward. The needs of the customer are consistently changing, and businesses have to change with it or risk the very glaring possibility of losing even the most loyal customers to the competition.

Statistics show that customer loyalty to brands and businesses are dropping at an alarming rate. This is largely because the internet has bombarded the 21st century customer with a plethora of choices, each promising to do things a little better than the last. Customer loyalty has therefore become a more difficult task to pull.

Related: 3 Essentials for Building a Loyal Customer Base

Data by American Express has shown that nearly 60 percent of customers try a new brand or a company just to find better customer service. In fact, 89 percent of customers often swap to a company's direct competitor after bad service. These findings easily transport customer service from the category of business afterthought to the category of business priority.

The 21st century customer is worth studying, and when you truly pay attention, you will find out how relevant these four indices are to building a loyal band of customers.

1. Build your customer success.

The concept of customer success is still relatively unknown in many business spheres and when it is used, it is often used as a synonym for customer service. However, the difference between the two is clear, albeit slight. Most importantly, the difference to your customers is crystal clear.

While customer service refers to the system with which your business engages customers and how it reacts to their problems and complaints, customer success refers to a proactively structured system where your business attends to customer's needs and problems in real time as the problems arise.

Customer success is often mentioned in the same conversation as Software as a Service (SaaS) because more often than not, it is used to refer to all the automated ways businesses use to address their customer's needs. The most common example will be live chat platforms on company websites. However, success occurs when your customers achieve the desired outcome for which they came to you through interactions with your company, either directly or through your product/service. This means that even non-automated forms of engagement with your customers must be developed to become proactive and focused on customer service. What this means is that you must start upgrading a lot of your customer service strategy to customer success strategy.

A great customer success strategy will enhance your customer base, especially by word of mouth -- which has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to grow a customer base. The goal is to make your customers feel so important that their issues are resolved immediately and not relegated to the KIV (keep in view) files. That feeling of importance is what you need to maintain customer satisfaction.

2. Make it very easy for customers to pay.

Most businesses pay attention to indices like speed of delivery and customer service. Very few businesses consider how their payment systems may affect overall customer satisfaction and retention. For instance, the POS systems that are uses in many brick and mortar business venues play a very vital role in how satisfied your customers become in the long run with your services. Point of Sale systems have evolved from systems that were used only for receiving and processing payment. POS systems are now being used to solve one of the major problems of businesses -- inventory management and general business management.

POS systems should integrate sales occurring online with sales occurring in your physical store, so customers never have the displeasure of walking into your store or making a purchase online only to realize that the ordered product is out of stock.

Related: The New Strategy for Lifetime Loyalty: Balancing 'Products' and 'Services'

In 2014, Walmart executives revealed that they were leaving almost $3 billion on the table as a result of items being out of stock. These inventory problems are common to even the biggest businesses. This creates a great need to have POS systems that integrate with inventory management and accounting and reconciliation software. This way your customers never leave empty handed.

The evolution of POS systems have seen amazing features added. POS systems can now be integrated to CRM software, so that it can generate customer profiles, catalog customer behavior and help you with better business decisions.

These exact capabilities, and the ability to solve this dilemma, is why the developers of POS systems like Lighthouse POS and Square have had such success and have earned many positive reviews as one of the leading systems of 2018, alongside Shopify POS and a few others.

3. Post-purchase follow-up.

It is common to find businesses stressing over email campaigns and customer maintenance strategy. Many businesses are now developing apps that they prescribe to customers. And while these apps may make it easier for customers to access their services, it rarely ever converts to a way that your business can keep in touch naturally with the customers.

Customers expect emails and in-app messages advertising products and even messages thanking them when they purchase. However, few expect messages that follow up on their experience with purchased items. For instance, a message that says, "Hello Fred, Thanks again for visiting our store/website. How are you finding the Samsung Galaxy X you purchased? Please respond with any complaints you might have." will naturally paint a picture that goes contrary to the notion people have of businesses -- that they are only concerned with sales.

Some real success has been had in the medical field with Collectly. This single strategy has seen immense success by providing hospitals and private medical practices with the ability to create personalized follow-up campaigns for their clients, bill patients and build online payment plans -- all while reducing about 80 percent of calls to the doctor by integrating a live-chat capability in their app.

The idea behind post-purchase follow-up is to make your customer feel that the purpose of your business is their success and satisfaction -- not their money. If you are going to use SaaS services and apps, then you might as well make them mean more than basic marketing.

Related: Robots May Replace Some Jobs, But Your Human Team Members Should Be There to Guide Them

4. The human touch remains relevant.

According to Customer Think's projection for 2019 customer service, technology will progress to streamline and automate customer service functions but the human touch will remain relevant. Automated approaches will handle mostly mundane tasks and first-line interactions with customers.

The questions customer service representatives will receive in 2019 will be much more technical and difficult because customers are aware that bots and self-serve technologies can answer the basic questions.

Businesses must train customer service representatives with a higher skill set. In the era of automation, customers are craving personal interaction. Customer service reps will therefore, demand more human skills, like empathy and problem solving, and a willingness for development and life-long learning.

The idea is to balance your efforts at automation with the right dose of personality in customer interactions. Satisfying clients is an art, but there is no reason you can't succeed with the right information at your disposal.

Chidike Samuelson

Entrepreneur, Lawyer, Author and Freelance writer

Chidike Samuelson is a serial entrepreneur and professional freelance writer specialized in developing content for businesses and websites. He offers general freelance writing services and business consulting at www.couchmentality.com.

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