SAN LUIS OBISPO: Keeping lines of communication open with consumers is the single most important factor in maintaining customer loyalty and traditional methods are best, a new survey has claimed.

Impact Learning Systems, a training and consultancy firm, ran a global survey with thousands of participants in recognition of Customer Loyalty Month to identify best practice. Its surprise conclusion was that 62.5% of companies attempted to re-engage with lapsed clients via telephone rather than more up-to-date media.

To keep lines of communication open, the majority of respondents therefore maintained a 24-hour call centre (52.8% of respondents), with 45.8% offering voicemail, 40.3% employing website FAQs and 30.6% using social media.

Although social media is moving up the loyalty agenda, according to the survey only 2.8% of attempts to reach out to such clients came via this format, behind email, on 20.8%. Direct mail, however, would seem to be in decline as only 1.4% of contacts were by this means.

The survey also found that 52.8% of companies test their clients' satisfaction rates by customer surveys, with personal conversations coming second on 36.1% and focus groups a distant third on 4.2%.

Maintaining engagement with loyal customers was achieved by offering discounts (36.1%), followed by offering gifts (12.5%), loyalty cards (4.2%) and entertainment (2.8%).

The study found, meanwhile, that when requiring customer service most clients preferred telephone conversations, with email coming second and live chat third.

A recent Admap article noted, however, that technology is driving a significant shift in consumer behaviour and blurring the line between online and offline engagement, which requires brands to rethink how they drive customer loyalty.

It quoted international research from ICLP which found that consumers in emerging markets were leading the way in their use of newer channels for brand interaction and argued that brands need to have new media-based strategies to drive greater loyalty with consumers in those countries.

Data sourced from Impact Learning Systems, Admap; additional content by Warc staff