I looked up loyalty in Wikipedia this morning. Their definition is: devotion and faithfulness to a cause, country, group, or person.
Note the glaring omission from that list? A brand.
Loyalty DOES exist for companies. People tattoo the Harley Davidson logo on themselves, the cult of Apple is legend, and Amazon’s ability to consistently exceed customer expectations has created an army of fans.
So why doesn’t Wikipedia recognize the loyalty between individuals and the brands that serve them?
To help answer that question, take 30 seconds to think about the companies you are loyal to. How many companies have you chosen to buy from for over five years to which you know you’re probably paying a premium? How many companies do you go out of your way to do business with?
I’m guessing you came up with a maximum of three. My list had one name on it: Apple. Their products are both intuitively functional and aesthetically appealing, and over the years I’ve had some wonderful service experiences with them.
The bottom line is: loyalty between consumers and brands is simply not that common. So what hope does this give the average company for whom building technologically superior products and services is not an option?
Well, there’s actually plenty. But let’s lower our sights a little. Using the analogy of a couples’ relationship, rather than focus on marriage, let’s just focus on making the next date special. Then the next one. Then the next one.
So what are some of the things the average company can do to make that next date special? Here are 5 things you can start doing today.
1. Define your purpose
What problem(s) do I solve for my customers? The benefits for doing so mainly revolve around employee engagement but it will also help define your brand to customers. It may just be something simple like “we provide peace of mind to our customers so they can focus on other things”.
2. Understand customer expectations
If you’re not monitoring customer expectations, you won’t know if you’re consistently delivering to them. There’s a number of ways you can gain customer understanding but if time and resources are a constraint, spend time with your customers every month. Go out on visits with your salespeople, spend a couple of hours on the phone in your contact center, or get behind the counter in your store. Get to know the people who choose to do business with you, the problems you solve for them, and why they chose you over your competitors.
3. Map the customer journey
Take a look at your company from the outside-in. Customer Journey Maps are an empirical and visual representation of how a customer experiences your company. It shows the phases a customer goes through in a discrete transaction with you. Including, the various touchpoints they will use, their goals at each, the critical touchpoints that have a higher impact on their loyalty, and the factors that affect the outcome on customer emotions. It helps document your customer experience from your customers’ eyes, helping you to understand how customers interact with you and where you need to pay attention. Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes to answer the question: “would I do business with me?”
4. Engage your employees
Satisfied employees result in better customer experience. Satisfaction of service workers was determined by their ability and authority to achieve results for customers and was thus determined by five factors:
- Workplace design
- Job design
- Employee selection and development
- Employee rewards and recognition
- Tools for serving customers
So spend some time today analyzing your reward and recognition systems. Are you motivating your employees to provide great customer experience with your incentives (or are you just rewarding sales)? Are you giving them the tools they need, to exceed customer expectations? In the long term, analyze your hiring and development policies as well as your workplace design. Make sure you get the right people in the door, and provide them with an environment that you’d be happy working in.
5. Make it easy
In 2010, a study of 75,000 people who had interacted with contact center representatives was released. It found that reducing the amount of effort that customers needed to expend to resolve their issues increased the likelihood that those customers would return to the company, increase the amount they spend, and talk positively about it. Going back to our couple’s analogy, that sounds like a pretty good date doesn’t it? The five tips offered in the article to help “make it easy” were:
- Don’t just resolve the current issue – head off the next one. (Anticipate customer needs)
- Arm employees to address the emotional side of customer interactions. (Make a connection with customers)
- Minimize channel switching by increasing self-service channel “stickiness.”
- Use feedback from disgruntled or struggling customers to minimize customer effort. (Act on poor feedback to improve future interactions)
- Empower the front line to deliver a low-effort experience.
Focus on making your next customer interaction special using any or all of the five methods mentioned above. Before too long you’ll have achieved the same end goal: loyal customers who wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.