Anyone who has ever owned an item of consumer electronics hardware or software knows the value of good customer support. Most of us aren’t experts in electronics or IT, so when things go wrong, we need technical support, with additional help from the customer service team if the problem remains. When that support is inadequate, it isn’t something we forget quickly.
The importance of good customer service when it comes to building brand loyalty long predates consumer electronics, but the way we access that service continues to evolve along with technology. This presents its own challenges and opportunities for brands and the ones that deliver innovative and satisfying customer service will be the ones that thrive.
Customer loyalty in consumer electronics
The world of consumer electronics is a cut-throat one when it comes to customer loyalty. For every iPhone fan who upgrades to the latest model as soon as possible and would never consider switching to anything else, there’s the consumer who shops around for the best deals regardless of which brands they might have used before.
According to research by Accenture, of the ten industries they included in their survey, consumer electronics had the lowest level of customer loyalty, with just 20% feeling loyal to their current manufacturers, while 47% would shop around for the better deal. The top two factors for switching brands were given as ‘competitive pricing’ and ‘value for money’, making it clear what customers value most.
However, there’s only so much competitive pricing that can be done in the consumer electronics market before brands are barely making any profit on the things they’re manufacturing. It’s also much more cost effective to retain existing customers than it is to constantly be trying to appeal to new ones to replace the ones who have left you.
With new brands and products coming out every week and competing for attention, there are few markets as competitive as the world of consumer electronics so the quality of customer support needs to reflect that to help convince buyers to stick with what they’ve got rather than switch.
Superstacks & customer support that delivers loyalty
If you haven’t heard of superstacks, you will have seen it in action, particularly if you’ve ever had an iPhone. It’s a business model identified by Accenture that Apple has turned into an art form, integrating the product a customer buys with a whole range of brand-owned apps, features and devices. This helps place the customer within an ecosystem that you hope they will be reluctant to leave behind by switching to a new brand.
This includes customer support, which Apple has embraced as a core aspect of its sales operation by placing ‘Genius Bars’ within its stores to deliver face-to-face customer service for its customers. Put simply, if you have a problem with your iPhone or iPad or any other Apple product, you have an obvious place on the high street to go and get it resolved, something few other electronics brands can offer.
And while you’re there, you’re surrounded by other Apple products to entice you further into the eco-system, with adverts playing on screens behind the Genius Bar, aiming to directly monetize the good customer service you are presumably receiving. The staff don’t even need to attempt to upsell to you as long as they are resolving your problem in a timely manner and giving you a good impression of Apple as a company that cares about you.
By attempting to keep you entwined within its web in this way, Apple has managed to stay on top of the smartphone market by a comfortable margin because it is more convenient to stay with it than to take the leap to another brand, product, platform and customer support system. If you buy an Android phone made by Samsung, it is already less clear where you go to get technical problems resolved.
Supporting customers by knowing them better
This is the aspect of customer support that can build up loyalty if done well, but is also the side that you ideally don’t want them to think too much about. Any successful business needs to collect and analyse data about its customers, but in these days of increased focus on data protection and privacy, it can be a concern for consumers if they feel spied upon.
However, the more a brand knows about its customers, the better it can serve them, and not only when things go wrong. Increasing loyalty requires just the right amount of contact between brand and customer throughout the lifespan of their business together, through the good times and the bad, and to deliver this effectively, the brand needs a good eCRM and the ability to utilise it effectively through smart content and communications.
Analysing the data from previous and existing customers will help identify trigger points that saw people decide to switch away from the brand and what issues were a factor, allowing for them to be resolved in time, whether it’s through technical fixes or customer support contact. Reactive advertising and smart content can be utilised on the website or via email to respond to common problems reactively and proactively to ensure that customers feel like they are being looked after.
Customer support can too often be looked at as an obligation rather than an opportunity, as anyone who has lost hours hanging on the telephone listening to hold music can attest. If a brand doesn’t care enough to answer your call quickly or to give you support that is quick, empathetic and offers a swift and effective resolution, it is hard to feel like they value your custom and therefore easy to feel like you should look elsewhere.
This might not matter much in industries where competition is lacking, but in the world of consumer electronics, we as customers not only have to think hard about where our money goes (as there tends to be a lot of it being spent) but also what we get out of it beyond just the product. Successful brands like Apple work hard at giving customers that feeling of being valued and supported, and that keeps them coming back for new products every time.
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