In today’s digital world, customer expectations have never been higher – and neither has the number of them who are prepared to jump ship if your business doesn’t meet them.

According to a study by NewVoiceMedia, US businesses are losing $62 billion per year, as a result of poor customer service. A figure which has increased by more than $20 billion since 2013.

Since then, the number of US consumers who have reported leaving a business due to poor customer service has also risen from 44 percent to 49 percent. We’re still a nation of serial switchers, and once you lose a customer, they’re unlikely to come back.

So, what’s causing this breakdown in customer relationships? And what can you do to stop your customers from switching to a competitor?

Lack of visibility is causing customer service to falter

Today’s consumers shop across many different channels. They might discover your product on an app and then make a purchase on your site, before heading into your store to pick it up. Along the way, they might make an inquiry on social media, and then at a later date, call your contact center for more details.

It is this fragmentation of the customer journey that is causing problems for businesses. While new technology provides new opportunities for sales, those brands who fail to develop complete visibility into cross-channel sales funnels, and the purchase paths of their customers, will falter.

Customers expect that no matter how they get in touch, their query will be answered quickly, and that all of their details will be at the fingertips of the agent they talk to. Without complete visibility, businesses struggle to offer this level of service – and this results in customers switching.

Five ways to stop customers from switching to a competitor

So, how can you prevent your customers from leaving? The answers often lie in your contact center – particularly as many consumers will only turn to social media to blast complaints in a public forum, once they’ve already been disappointed by your service.

Here are five tips to help you improve your customer retention rate.

1. Ensure everyone in your organization has access to the same information

There’s nothing more annoying than having to reiterate your problem to multiple customer service agents. And 49 percent of respondents to our survey cited this as something that puts them off calling a business directly.

You can avoid this situation by seamlessly linking all of your channels of communication, so that everyone from your organization has access to the same information about a customer.

The best way to do this is to use a single, centralized platform to keep track of all incoming customer queries. This means that if a customer asks a question via email and then calls your contact center, the agent they speak to will be able to see details of the query they made.

This system will also reduce overall call handling times, without compromising on customer service.

2. Don’t leave your customers hanging

No one likes being put on hold for long periods of time. Of the people we surveyed, 58 percent would hang up after 5 to 10 minutes, and being placed on hold for too long was a key factor in customers’ decisions to switch.

By effectively tracking customer interactions, as described above, you can make your contact center more efficient – and this, in turn, will allow your agents to answer calls more quickly.

3. Train call center agents to solve problems

45 percent of people think that calling is the fastest way to get a problem solved. But frustration quickly mounts if they are passed from agent to agent, before reaching someone who can help them.

By investing in training, and equipping staff to solve a wide range of common customer problems, you can reduce call transfers – and make your customers happier.

4. Personalize your customers’ experience

With the right call center technology and an understanding of your customers’ purchase pathways, you can take things ones step further and truly personalize your service.

For example, you could prioritize an important customer’s call, connect them to an agent they already have a relationship with, or recommend offers you know they’ll qualify for, based on their details.

Not only does this type of service make customers’ lives easier, but it shows them why they should be with you and not one of your competitors.

5. Build relationships with your customers

In the modern contact center, there’s a huge wealth of customer data available – so there’s no reason why your agents shouldn’t be able to build one-to-one relationships with customers.

No one wants to feel like just another number. Going the extra mile and taking the time to personalize service and reward loyalty shouldn’t be difficult, but it can make a big difference to your bottom line.

As consumer expectations continue to soar, hanging onto your customers is all about convincing them that you have more to offer than your competitors. And this starts with the customer service they receive from your contact center.