The landscape of customer loyalty has new contours: Customers get terrific service in pockets of their life and use those experiences to judge every other sales exchange. Customers also have more choices than ever before and therefore rely on their service experience as a key gauge of product and service excellence. Today’s customers are much smarter buyers and figuring out how to retain customers today is no simple task. Not only are customers different, the same person can be different at different times. Related: Why Should They Buy? The business traveller may enjoy the convenience of Holiday Inn on a weekday but find the same property ill-suited for a weekend getaway with a spouse. Nonetheless, below are four key loyalty drivers that fit most customers most of the time when it comes to most services:
1. Understand me:
I change all the time – knowing about the customer takes more than simply sending out a survey. It means positioning every customer-contact person as a vital listening post able to gather valuable intelligence about shoppers’ ever-changing requirements and provide early warning about consumer issues. It involves a number of customer-intelligence gathering tools – social media, suggestion boxes, and even the good old note-pad on a checkout counter saying ’Please tell us one way we can improve our service to you.’
2. Include me:
Make me your partner Customers’ loyalty soars when they discover they can be active participants in the service experience. Dealers for Build-A-Bear Workshop have seen their interactive build-a-stuffed-toy experience spread to more than 400 stores around the world in 16 years. Customers will care when given a chance to share. Give your customers an opportunity to put ‘skin in the game.’
3. Protect me:
Eliminate anxiety and worry. The value proposition includes the product or service, along with the price and the experience involved in receiving it. These givens, like the air we breathe, are taken for granted unless removed. Customers assume banks will be safe, hotels comfortable and hospitals clean. These taken-for-granted attributes are the very ‘air’ of customer service. For example, a recollection of a restaurant’s gourmet meal will be totally overridden by a nightmarish instance of food poisoning if the establishment failed to pay attention to routine health practices. Create your own inspection team to quality check your service.
4. Surprise me:
It tells me you care. Today’s customers want sparkle and glitter; a cherry on top of everything. They want all their senses to be stimulated. Product features have become far more titillating than functional; some extras have become more valued than the core offering. Attracting shoppers’ loyalty these days requires that customer service itself be an attraction. In other words, what’s the free prize inside your company’s service experience? Look for simple ways to treat customers like today is their birthday. Loyal customers act as a volunteer sales force, championing your business to others at home, work, in their social circles – and even around the globe via recommendations on social media. And because they feel committed to you and see emotional and business value in the relationship, they typically will pay more for what they get from you because they are convinced it’s worth it. The formula for creating and sustaining customer loyalty comes from understanding, inclusion, trust and joy. Incorporate these four features in your customer experience and watch the admiration soar right along with your bottom line.
Be a customer whisperer
Take advantage of these three cool customer service apps
- ZenDesk. Used by online giant, Groupon, this cloud-based software is available to any sized business. The tool is easy to use and provides one-on-one customer support. Get a free trial at www.zendesk.com.
- Parature for Facebook. Where do angry customers go to rant? Social media. Parature’s cloud-based software lets you integrate a 24/7 customer service centre to your business’s Facebook page. Visit www.parature.com.
- Desk.com. Designed specially for small businesses, it allows companies to connect with customers via social media as well as phone, chat and email all in one place to boost efficiency and productivity. Your first customer service agent is free. Visit www.desk.com.
Related: Are You Driving Your Customers Away?