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Businesses aim for 2015 growth by betting on customer loyalty

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Sage commissioned Populus to interview businesses with 100+ employees as part of an annual Business Index Survey, which gathers insights across 18 countries around the world. It was found that more than a third of respondents saw increased customer loyalty as the means by which they would grow their business over the next year.

As confidence for mid-market companies reaches new highs, businesses are planning for growth by focusing on increased customer loyalty. We also found that Europe’s mid-market companies are pinning their hopes for growth on strengthening their product and services portfolios and marketing.

Growth and exporting

In the UK, our mid-market companies account for more than a third of the UK’s GDP and have the highest levels of business confidence in Europe.

The UK’s ‘Mittelstand’ is expected to surge over the next 12 months, with 68 per cent of businesses anticipating growth in their turnover. This confidence is all built on strong momentum in exporting this year and an expected surge next year – 34 per cent of UK mid-market companies saw their levels of exporting grow in the last year, while a whopping two thirds (65 per cent) expect to see export turnover growth in the coming twelve months. While they increase export turnover, Sage Mid-Market’s research suggests that much of this will be underpinned by a drive for greater customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty – communication and collaboration

By focusing on customer loyalty, businesses are demonstrating realism and pragmatism. They have understood the huge value that happy customers bring. Gaining new customers is expensive and time consuming, and customer churn means that is multiplied many times over. Dissatisfied customers can also spread the news of their unhappiness far and wide and a negative sentiment can have a huge effect on profitability.

A content customer is your advocate: the happiest will go out of their way to sing your praises, recruit new customers and provide constructive feedback on your products and services. There are knock-on effects too. Employees who feel they’re doing something worthwhile, and who work with satisfied, positive customers, tend to stick around longer – and provide better service, because they’re happier doing their job, too.

Customer loyalty really comes into its own when a business is in a growth market. Customers spend more – making them more valuable and helping to boost growth organically. It also requires less outlay than recruiting new customers.

Being customer centric

There are many reasons why a culture of customer centricity makes even more sense these days. The emergence of the social customer – who can react to a bad experience on social media with catastrophic repercussions – is one reason why customer satisfaction has become a mission-critical issue for many businesses.

Driven by technology opportunities people want to communicate and collaborate more in business, as they do in their personal lives. Gartner predicts that by 2016, more than 1.5bn people will use social networks. There is a huge opportunity here for customer loyalty.

By incorporating social media into sales, marketing and customer service activities, businesses can learn more about their customers’ likes and dislikes. By leveraging the information available they uncover more leads and boost the overall customer experience with greater personalisation and timeliness.

Beginners on this journey will find that by broadening their presence on social media they create an extra avenue to generate interest. If people can find the business in multiple places they are more likely to make that connection between the brand and their need when they are ready to buy.

Customer centricity is not just about offering great service, it means offering a great experience all the way through the customer journey, from initial awareness through purchasing and finally the post-purchase process. Companies that are committed to customer centricity focus on what the customer wants and needs, and develop products and services around that.

Mid-market businesses on the up

It is notable how optimistic exporting mid-market companies are. They companies are the unsung heroes of European economy, a fertile breeding ground of innovation and growth, yet are often overlooked by policy-makers. Fortunately this part of the economy has their own growth ambitions and are looking forward a great 2015.

Jayne Archbold is CEO Mid Market Europe and Chair Sage ERP X3 Globally at Sage.

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