Apple customers wait in long lines to buy new products before the store is even open.
Starbucks customers carry the brand’s cups everywhere.
Harley Davidson customers are users for life because the brand defines their identity as bikers.
No kidding, these consumers are permanent brand advocates.
Die-hard, star-struck fans.
As we know, the purpose of any business is to create happy customers.
Customer Referrals by Word-of-mouth
A happy customer is the result of a great product and even greater after-sale services.
For centuries, word-of-mouth has been the most effective marketing channel.
A survey from Bright Local found approximately 84 percent of consumers say they either trust online recommendations or those of their family, friends, and colleagues.
However, the odds are against the business.
One negative word from a good consumer can turn the tables.
But it takes multiple good experiences for a business to suppress one bad incident.
Word-of-mouth builds customer loyalty. And loyal fans will freely talk about your product without your prodding.
According to research by the Temkin Group, loyal customers are 17 times more likely to refer others, 11 times more likely to buy more, six times more likely to forgive, and nine times more likely to try a new offering from your company.
It follows then that retaining customers and earning their loyalty is more important than finding new ones.
Now the question is, how does a brand achieve this undying loyalty and create “raving brand advocates?”
Customer Experience Done Right
Nowadays, customer experience is becoming a differentiator of your business.
Seventy-three percent of companies with great customer experience show better financial performance compared to others.
Furthermore, revenue increases are directly proportional to good customer experience, as this study from Medallia shows:
That means, as a business, your representatives must engage customers, interacting with them at every opportunity, being polite, and responding to queries positively.
No matter how the customer reacts, or how many times they ask the same question, you must be patient and understanding.
A calm response always leads to a positive solution, even when the customer is angry.
On the other hand, failing to respond or belittling the customer can turn into a disaster for the company.
For example, consider the case of UrbanClap.
In an email, CEO Abhiraj Bhal asked his team to ignore a customer. And then he mistakenly clicked “reply all” to the email, which also happened to include the customer. It went viral on social media and led to a major social crisis for the company.
People took his comments personally, and the result was a very sorry CEO and outraged consumers.
Customer Experience Lessons to Learn
The biggest lesson on how to avoid this situation is you must put in place a flexible process for customer experience:
- Understand that customer experience comes above everything else. Make it a company-wide obsession. Think Zappos.
- Put in place a support platform. Make it clear to customers that all support and service will go through it. Make the help desk easy and intuitive to use.
- Don’t neglect digital channels other than your primary customer experience platform. Have a presence on Facebook and Twitter where you can handle customers service requests. Route these to your primary helpdesk if necessary.
- Make sure all employees, from shop floor advisor to the CEO, know your customer experience policies and follow the same procedures to help.
Air Asia has excelled in making their customers happy by giving them quick, honest, and humble replies, leading to an outstanding social presence.
Jeff Bezos’ words ring true here.
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”
No wonder Amazon strives to keep its consumers happy with customer-centric policies and proactive communication.
Listen to Your Customers
Noone likes a one-way dialogue. That’s why it’s called a “lecture.”
Humans want to be heard.
Listen to customer queries and work to make improvements accordingly.
When customers have a problem, they don’t want to hear excuses from your brand. If you’ve made a mistake, listen and correct.
Uber does this just the right way.
Apart from promptly responding to customer queries after every trip, Uber asks its consumers for feedback on car and driver, assuring them their opinion matters.
Customers can respond immediately using a simple star rating. And because little effort is necessary, almost every customer leaves feedback.
Many companies fail to monitor what their customers are saying about them, or respond to their comments.
But thanks to digital media, even small businesses have access to more simple tools than ever. They can use these to solicit feedback from customers proactively. In particular:
- Create a simple survey form using tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. Don’t just ask random questions. Instead, come up with smart, open-ended questions that help you achieve a business objective.
- Email is your friend. Use it to solicit reviews, ratings, product feedback, and suggestions for product improvement.
- Social media is where your customers, competitors, peers, and partners all hang out. And they’re talking. Tools such as Mention or Brandwatch allow you to monitor major social networks and respond to conversations as they develop.
Respond to Every Action and Reaction
An appropriate and timely response to every customer query or interaction is critical, regardless whether it is positive or negative.
Customers who have a good experience are more likely to make additional purchases compared to those who did not have a good experience.
Moreover, customers switch loyalty very quickly when they don’t receive support in the way they’d hoped. Dissatisfaction is seen as the major factor in brand attrition.
Be ready to offer discounts, exchange goods, or give refunds if a customer is dissatisfied.
This may lead to a temporary monetary loss but will retain the loyalty of a customer for a longer time. Here’s a nice example from Target:
With a quick response, they can reassure the customer.
A “Batman mask” is a small thing for Target, but for a little boy, it means everything. They surely earned a happy customer this time!
To replicate this strategy, you must be active and super-responsive to the needs and pains of your customers. Specifically,
- Speak the language of your customers. Always use a positive tone, such as “We will be able to get that for you next month. Would you like to leave your number?” instead of “Sorry, that product is out of stock.”
- Aim to solve every little problem for your customer. Leave no loose ends. Acknowledge the trouble they’re in and refocus the conversation on the solution.
- Reward your employees for good customer experience and retention.
- Take advantage of technology and gamification to improve your response rates. For example, try and get the “very responsive” badge on your Facebook page.
Gratitude is Key
Most brands are conscious of customer reactions and do apologize when they screw up.
But also, you shouldn’t hesitate to thank customers when they say something good about your brand.
Showing gratitude is fundamental to building a great brand personality.
REI, LLBean, Denny’s, Jet Blue, Barkbox, and many other companies have cemented their relationships with customers in both physical and virtual spaces with a friendly and approachable attitude. The openness with which they respond leaves customers feeling positively happy.
Zappos has been treating shoe enthusiasts to a traveling road show across the USA.
They have a multi-city, pop-up shopping and entertainment tour called Friends With Benefits.
Activities are curated to suit each host city’s unique culture—bringing together locally relevant merchandise and styles, live performances by local artists, and free food and drink from the area’s favorite food trucks.
Here’s how it went down in Austin last year:
Remember, if gratitude doesn’t flow from the top, an organization will never be successful in showing it. And customers will know.
Here’s how to be sincerely thankful to your customers:
- When it comes to gratitude, nothing beats personalization. Handwritten notes are the simplest and easiest way to establish a personal connection, yet few companies use them. As more business takes place online, it is more important than ever to fall back on this traditional, yet delightful way of reaching out to your customers. Make them smile, and your product will be secondary.
- Another simple idea is to promote your customers’ work, content, or photos on your social media channels or website. User-generated content has the dual advantage of encouraging trust for your brand from potential customers, in addition to loyalty from your existing ones.
Keep Putting Your Customers First
Making a customer is easy, making a valuable customer is tricky!
Research from Marketing Sherpa shows that nearly 65-70 percent of customers who are satisfied with a company believes it’s because the brand puts their needs ahead of its own business goals.
This holds a clear lesson: Prioritize customer needs.
When you put time and effort into creating star fans, sales will follow automatically.
Take customer feedback and act upon it. You’ll make your customers feel important, and this will help your brand to constantly improve based on their feedback.
Trust is a very difficult thing to build, and once destroyed, it takes forever to rebuild.
This is why building and maintaining a stellar online reputation is so important.
Make sure your digital presence remains spotless with proactive audience engagement and community building efforts.
At all times, make it a point to keep your customers aware of changes in your policies, processes, and company direction.
When you invest in your customers and work your goals around them, you’re sure to succeed in business.
Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash