Fad diets can help you lose a few pounds, but most people gain the weight back and sometimes more. To really lose weight and keep it off requires a lifestyle change. The same is true for gaining client loyalty. Building loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no “quick fix” to get loyal customers. To achieve client loyalty requires a lifestyle change, not just a diet.
There is an art to ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction and building customer loyalty. It is not just about retaining the client, having them buy more, or expanding to different solutions and services. Many companies don’t always understand why a client buys again, they are just happy that they did. In reality, there could be procurement policy factors or you’re just the lowest cost provider and they really don’t love what they are purchasing.
This topic of building client loyalty and advocacy is not new in the IT industry. Many companies have embarked on various silo programs focused on increasing client references or customer satisfaction and many have failed to produce the desired results. Customer engagement programs, particularly in the services and solutions business, need to focus on building relationships and increasing revenue by both retaining existing customers and acquiring new ones. Not having the right mixture of executive support, program ownership, focused resources and budgets can stand in the way of success.
But, there is some good news to report. In ITSMA’s recent August 2014 online survey “Marketing to Existing Customers: Engagement, Expansion and Advocacy,” they found that 81% of those surveyed said customer engagement is important to the overall business strategy. The survey found marketing departments are starting to invest in this area with 32% of the marketing budget in FY 2013 being devoted to Customer Retention, Loyalty and Growth.
The ITSMA web-based survey was taken by over 75 companies world-wide gathering feedback from marketers, sales and sale operations professionals. The research identified obstacles that marketers face in this space and also found several companies that stood out as high achievers that were more effective than others.
Unisys was one of the high achievers mentioned with a case study in the ITSMA research results and was recognized as a Best Practice for Customer Engagement based on their closed-loop customer satisfaction and loyalty initiative, “Unisys is honored to be recognized by ITSMA as a best practice leader in customer engagement. We invested in a closed-loop program, not just a research project to create customer advocates and encourage innovation,” says Judy Jones, Client Satisfaction and Loyalty Leader at Unisys.
Unisys has undergone a lifestyle change over the past five years to drive a customer-centric culture that is rewarded with client loyalty. The Unisys customer engagement program has multiple, inter-related components including a structured approach to collecting and acting upon customer satisfaction feedback, a strong client reference program resulting from highly satisfied clients, and an advocacy program that focuses on applied innovation that is generating positive reactions from clients.
“There was a great deal of best practice sharing among the account teams on how to leverage our program. Unisys is equally focused on ensuring that there is real value for the client as well. This is coming in the form of more engaged account managers, more proactive work on their part to identify potential innovation projects, public recognition of innovative projects undertaken by clients and making sure that client advocates are rewarded as well,” adds Jones.
The results Unisys has seen include:
One of the new elements of the Unisys Client Satisfaction & Loyalty Program that Unisys launched this year was their Lighthouse Client Advocacy Program that recognizes and rewards clients for innovation. “Our clients were proud to be recognized in front of their peers for their accomplishments,” mentions Lisa McLaine, Portfolio Marketing at Unisys. A benefit for both Unisys and their clients is regularly getting direct and continual feedback from a representative sample group of clients.
As with any successful program, there is always more work to be done to ensure your lifestyle change stays on track. An emphasis on internal communications and engagement are critical to the additional accomplishments in the long-term. Moving loyal customers to become advocates for you is just the start, it is a continual process to build a trusted partnership that is mutually beneficial. Successful organizations will gladly work together to mutually share the positive outcomes to be gained.
See the ITSMA Marketing to Existing Customers: Engagement, Expansion and Advocacy Online Survey Report for additional details on the results of their recent examination into customer engagement programs, best practices and the results of both.