Establishing customer loyalty can take months or even years. But companies that invest resources and money into the customer experience often reap financial benefits in the long term. “Over time, you will see loyalty and trust repaid if you exhibit that to [customers],” says Denise Lee Yohn, president of Denise Lee Yohn Inc. Yohn is an independent consulting partner who helps companies integrate their brands into daily operations.
It’s important for a biller to clarify what its brand stands for — how the brand is unique and how it compares with other options in the same industry. More specifically, the brand should demonstrate a clear, competitive advantage that customers find meaningful and valuable. While an organization’s marketing department may oversee the company’s visual brand identity and communication, every corner of the business— including the payments department — should have a clear understanding of the organization’s brand and underlying mission.Consider the following steps from Yohn to build customer loyalty at every touch point.
A biller should aim to create a customer experience that reflects the brand. For example, if a biller wants to be perceived as having a higher level of personalized service than its competitors, it may be wise to offer different types of payment channels. Giving customers the ability to pay via a mobile app, pay by text, Web portal, interactive voice response (IVR) system or walk-in payment conveys that the biller wants to make life easy for its customers. But before a biller can tailor each touch point to reflect the company’s brand identity, there needs to be a comprehensive understanding of the key customer-payment touch points. For example, do the biller’s customers interact with the brand through sales representatives over the phone, via the company’s website or in person at company offices?
Once a biller has a clear understanding of all its payment-channel touch points, it’s helpful to recognize key customer segments and track their payment behavior, along with other essential information. For instance, a significant number of customers may be young families, families with children in college or Baby Boomers making their way into retirement. “Companies must seek to understand what customers want and need, how they make decisions about what services they need, what’s important to them in doing business with the company, etc.,” Yohn says.
Different customer segments will be inclined to use different types of payment channels. By tracking payment behavior through online metrics, the use of promotion codes and surveys, a biller can start to see patterns in terms of the channels that customers are most likely to use. For example, when Yohn’s company worked with a sporting goods retailer, she found that the retailer’s older customers primarily purchased items through mail and phone orders, while younger customers were more interested in using the retailer’s website. Based on this information, the retailer was able to tailor both experiences, adapting the language in mail and phone orders for older customers, while bringing the website more in line with a younger customer base.
Once there is a clear understanding of each touch point’s target segment, billers should detail the standard customer experience at specific touch points. To achieve this, Yohn and the sporting goods retailer wrote narratives in which they named a hypothetical customer and described everything about his potential experience, from the greeting and services provided to how quickly his merchandise would be shipped. In the case of a payment-channel touch point, a biller may want to create a hypothetical narrative about a 20-something customer who decides to start paying via text message or a 60-something customer who wants to submit payments using the IVR system.
Billers should examine whether the customer experience is in line with the brand. For example, a biller may promote itself as a convenient, service-oriented brand; yet, it only offers time-intensive payment options, such as mailing a check or speaking with a customer service representative (CSR). In this case, the biller may decide it’s time to offer more self-service options like mobile, Web and recurring payments, and provide the ability to save payment information.
Billers can guarantee a cohesive customer experience by aligning the strategies of all company departments, including marketing, sales, customer service and payments, and implementing policies to ensure consistency. “Leaders of organizations need to set standards and expectations for customers,” Yohn says. “If your defining value is personal interaction, that culture needs to be embraced throughout the organization.”