Customer service has a major influence on the rise or fall of your business. A positive experience keeps customers coming back, but a negative one impedes your chances at building customer loyalty.
Bad experiences can hurt your bottom line, too. Studies show that acquiring new customers costs up to 25 times more than retaining existing ones. On the other hand, retaining a loyal customer can be extremely profitable.
This is why it is crucial to understand how you can use exceptional customer service to create loyal customers.
Best practices for Customer Loyalty
Customers expect better experiences than ever before, leaving brands to determine how customer service can drive fans. So, how do you keep them coming back? Follow these customer service best practices to build loyalty.
Set your Team up for Success
No one that works in customer service wants to give the customer a bad experience. Unfortunately, they’re not always in the position to offer a resolution. Equip employees with the proper resources and institute a customer-centric approach.
Customer centricity is a method of doing business which places an emphasis on the customer experience prior to, during, and even after the sale. A customer-centric approach looks to develop customer loyalty and focuses on the long term value of a customer’s patronage rather than the immediate sale.
This approach requires that you hear and listen to customer feedback, develop products and price points that are consistent with customer expectations, and provide an exceptional level of care to customers throughout their association with your business.
Apple is a great example of a company that equips employees with the resources needed to empower the customer and develop loyalty. The Apple Genius training program is invaluable and teaches employees how to best communicate with customers about their needs while placing emphasis on care and support.
Anticipate what the customer will want – and where they will be
Having good customer service doesn’t mean you have a phone like open 24/7, although it helps. But, it should be easy for customers to contact your company. Anticipate the touch points where they’ll need assistance and be there.
This goes for communication channels as well. Gone are the days of customers trying to reach you by phone. Instead, they want to tweet, instant message, email, or text you for assistance. This can be daunting for smaller retailers, but it’s a necessary transition to make if you haven’t done so already.
However many channels of support your business uses, the experience should be consistent and in line with customer expectations. As such, all levels of support should be integrated into a centralized system. For example, this would enable an in-store representative to reference a customer’s online purchase history; or an associate in one store should be able to check inventory in another store.
This type of omnichannel support can be difficult to maintain, however it is vital to the customer-centric approach.
Collect Feedback and Implement It
Listening to what customers have to say is a surefire way to improve loyalty. However, you need to take it a step further and implement their feedback and address pain points they have with your product or service.
Take some time to look through customer feedback (if you aren’t collecting feedback, start there). Pinpoint recurring issues and gather the team to work on a solution.
Remember, the focus of a customer-centric approach is the customer experience. Feedback, both positive and negative, is the first indication of whether the experience is in line with expectations.
Analyze your customer’s feedback and use that information to enhance the customer’s experience as well as perception of your business.A semantic analysis can derive the common high and low points of the customer experience. Use this information to your benefit.
Positive customer feedback should be shared with the team, particularly those who are most responsible for delivering that experience to the customer. This helps to confirm that the approach you are taking is working. It also rewards employees for their efforts.
Brands that are committed to customer service
Successful companies understand the importance of the customer experience. From initial interaction to after the purchase. Their success is largely attributed to how they treat their customers as well as the processes in place that set their customer service representatives up for success. Let’s take a look at two companies that use customer service to build customer loyalty.
One of the largest hospitality companies in the world, Marriott International has more than 1.2 million hotel rooms in over 120 countries around the world. Even at such a large scale, Marriott is known as a leader in customer service across big brands.
It all started with the company’s founder, who had the epiphany, “take care of associates and they will take care of customers.” Marriott employs a people-first culture that trickles down from employee to guest.
Another thing Marriott does that incites customer loyalty is asking for feedback. They solicit nearly 10 million customer responses every year. They truly want to know what the customer experience was like, and they report on their findings to make improvements.
They even have a feedback system that makes customer feedback available to all levels of employees in the organization.
It’s no secret that the technology giant has an extremely loyal fan base. While they certainly help, it’s not the products alone that drive such hard and fast loyalty. The Apple Store is designed to enhance the customer experience, mainly by way of expertly trained customer service representatives known as Apple Geniuses.
They use a technique called A-P-P-L-E, which is a guide to communicating with the customer that leaked to the public in 2012. It’s an acronym that stands for:
A – Approach
P – Probe
P – Present
L – Listen
E – End
Basically, this is Apple’s approach to engage a customer about their problem or needs, present a solution, hear their feedback, and close the deal. They use customer service techniques to create empowered customers, which results in loyal customers. Their focus is on building the relationship, not selling products.
The online retail giant excels in many areas, but customer service is one area where offline retailers can learn from. Their returns policy is as generous as it is painless. They consistently monitor delivery times and will frequently reach out to a customer if they notice a delivery has taken longer than advertised. Often, this occurs before the customer has contacted them.
Bottom line; don’t let your customers down.
Customer loyalty is built through consistently positive experiences. Using customer feedback to build a track record of those experiences is a surefire way to improve your business and create brand loyalists.
When you focus on the customer experience, the goal is to go above and beyond expectations. Deliver a unique experience that will impress and delight the customer. Customer satisfaction is important, however the focus should be to go beyond their expectations and deliver a “wow” experience. When customers have this type of experience, they will reward a business with loyalty and recomendations.