It’s Not Me, It’s You. Three Fundamentals to Cultivating Customer Loyalty
Getting your customers to love you is not too dissimilar from keeping the attention of a love interest. In both scenarios you’re dealing with individuals that have unique idiosyncrasies, perspectives, interests, values, and shifting emotional states. These realities explain why there isn’t a “by-the-numbers” approach to win the hearts and minds of those who patronize your business. But don’t despair!
Despite the cards being stacked against you, there are fundamentals you can utilize to increase your odds of developing loyalty. So let’s dig into three themes that will get you and your company where you need to be.
Listening is the first and most-often ignored element of getting customer loyalty. While business and shareholder interests do not always align with what customers want, an earnest effort to listen and respond appropriately has to be made. For example, you may have heard that fast-food titan McDonald’s is in a bit of slump lately. After several quarters of sales decline in the United States, management at the Golden Arches are finally in a listening mood. For several years, critics and customers alike have demanded greater food quality, simpler menus, all-day breakfast (I heart Sausage McMuffins BTW!), and healthier food options. With McDonalds finally taking steps to roll out these initiatives, I can’t help but wonder if their current pain could have been prevented from taking a greater interest in listening its customers.
Once you have listening down pat, anticipation is another fundamental you have to possess. Outside of some Business-101 best practices of understanding market conditions, being well versed in the competitive landscape, and playing to your strengths, using feedback systems and analytics are key. Look, I know analytics is a du jour subject in some circles, but there are major reasons why analytics are gaining more respect in multiple business categories.
Capturing and interpreting data is key to developing business intelligence. Whether you’re conducting surveys, using qualitative feedback loops, polling, or even breaking down traffic and engagement levels on interactive websites or apps, you can learn more about your customers to properly predict and anticipate what they will want. The late Steve Jobs was respected for many things in his run an Apple’s CEO, but a major part of his legacy was focusing Apple’s efforts on anticipating what will delight users. Its iPhone business was born from people’s frustration by a fragmented and disjointed cellular industry. The iPad was a response to mediocre and undeveloped tablet market that had a ton of potential, but no thought leadership. This is more than acting on a gut feeling, the use of intelligence to form assumptions to act upon are at the foundation of anticipation.
Responsiveness ties into understanding the psychology of a loyal customer.Think about some of your own experiences such as: eating at restaurants, staying at a hotels, or making product returns at big-box retailers. Start mentally mapping the full spectrum of your interactions across the board.
Think of the touch points that your customers and clients use to interface with your brand whether it’s physical locations, websites, social media, phone applications, forums, and even call centers. The experience and service levels your customers have will influence their perception of your brand.
One example on responsiveness that comes to mind is a recent interaction I had with Vizio, a company I recently purchased a television from. Having heard of their great reputation for fast responses on Twitter, I sent a direct message to Vizio Twitter account regarding a technical issue I was having with their WWE streaming app, and I got a response in under 20 minutes. Taking into account that Vizio’s handle gets hundreds of tweets directed at them daily, I was rather impressed.
This is no end-all prescription on best practices to earn your customer’s loyalty, but these fundamentals are a great start. Listening will help inform your decisions on the products and services your customers are in need of. Exploring new business opportunities while avoiding proverbial landmines come with informed anticipation. Think of systems you can leverage to better understand your customer and play to those findings. Finally, ensure you’re equipped to provide your customers with stellar service and to be responsive. People tend to remember companies that are terrible and extraordinary while those in the middle are often forgot.
Gaining customer loyalty is not a science, it is alchemy; so have the right ingredients in house to give yourself a fighting chance in today’s hyper-competitive business environment.