Building loyalty sounds like a tough job. And it’s true - there are no magic moments that instantly turn a customer into a loyal one. Instead, loyalty comes from consistency. To keep your customers coming back for more, you need to continually deliver on the little things. That’s what this blog post is about: the little customer experience strategies that impact our interactions every day.
Paying attention to the small stuff is important. Loyal customers are brand advocates, and 77% of customers are more likely to buy a new product or service when hearing about it from someone they know. Word-of-mouth referral is more popular than in-store discovery and searching the internet.
Unfortunately, according to Gartner, customer service interactions are four times more likely to lead to disloyalty than loyalty. Loyalty is defined as a repeat purchase or referring the product to a friend. Disloyalty, on the other hand, is canceling an account, spreading negative word-of-mouth, or never buying from a company again. So how can you beat the odds, and earn your customers’ loyalty right now?
The secret behind customer loyalty is that people are loyal to people. They don’t feel as loyal to impersonal brands and products – no matter how satisfied they are with your service. “There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer,” says Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert.
Here are five easy strategies you can use to boost customer loyalty, today.
1. Look for opportunities to reduce friction
It’s important to make your customers’ experience with your company as easy as possible for them. With the increased focus on convenience in every part of our lives, customers are used to effort-free experiences. If your company makes it hard to do business with them then they will be looking elsewhere.
Gartner emphasizes the importance of getting the foundations of the customer experience right before you try to “wow” your customers. Too many companies are tripping up over matters like payments and refunds, which suggests their priorities are skewed towards the superficial.
“We found that the majority of customers, notably 96%, who had high-effort experiences reported being disloyal, compared to only 9% of customers with low-effort experience,” says Nick Toman, group vice president at Gartner.
You may think that exceeding expectations will drive customer loyalty, but you have to cover the basics first. Aiming for anything else is like to be a waste of money. Identify and reduce friction in these areas:
Customers hate having to repeat information – invest in a help desk system that easily brings up customer history.
Stop treating customers like a number – actively anticipate your customer’s needs using extra information about them from your CRM or help desk tool.
Eliminate the need to contact your company more than once – rigorously monitor all incoming support channels and reply to every single query.
Don’t make customers contact the company when they can self-serve – if customers can solve a problem themselves, provide that option with a knowledge base.
Prevent customers hunting for essential information – surface crucial information in a call-out, and design your interfaces intuitively so important elements are easy to access.
2. Set clear expectations
Customers like knowing what to expect because it requires less cognitive effort than dealing with completely new experiences. For example, when customers expect their order in 24 hours, they can easily schedule their delivery and forget about it. Fulfilling customer expectations allows them to make use of the cognitive schemas they have already built, which are mental models of how they perceive the world.
Unfortunately, when customers don’t get what they were expecting (like a delayed delivery), this can lead to some negative consequences as they need to re-evaluate their cognitive schemas. This leads to situations where customers are resentful, unhappy and unsatisfied. There’s a saying that goes, “expectations are premeditated resentments.” When we set expectations for customers, they are predisposed to notice when an experience is consistent or inconsistent. It’s the former – clearly consistent expectations – that drive customer loyalty.
Expectations are relative, and that’s why you should follow the practice of “under-promise and over-deliver.” In the Kano model, this is known as increasing your “delighters”. A delighter is an offering that makes a customer happy if you deliver it, but they wouldn’t notice if it was absent. If you promise to provide your customers with weekday-only support, and yet you respond to their email over the weekend, this results in customers feeling delight. Whereas if you promised weekend support, but didn’t respond until Monday, expectations would not be met and customers would become disloyal.
The good news is, companies have a lot of control over the expectations that we set for our customers. Context and past experiences strongly influence what your customers will expect from you. Follow these steps to set clear expectations so you can consistently meet and exceed them:
Define expectations for your customers clearly in areas like shipping policy, returns & exchange policy, support coverage.
Communicate these policies on your website, in your app, social media profiles, and in your autoresponders.
Live up to the expectations you have set and exceed them when you can, or lower customer expectations to more accurately reflect what you can deliver.
3. Tell your customers you appreciate them
Companies already know about the importance of collecting customer feedback, but what about communicating your feedback to customers? Only if it’s positive of course!
A study by The Rockefeller Group shows that 68% of customers stop using a service because they believe the business doesn’t care about them. This perception is not unfounded, because it’s easy to only communicate with your customers when you want something from them (like their money or a recommendation).
To earn loyalty from your customers, you need to give at least as much as you get. We’re all guilty of only contacting customers when we want them to buy something, but what about getting in touch just to thank them?
It’s super quick and super easy to show your appreciation:
A handwritten thank you note sent to their address remains one of the most solid ways to show appreciation.
Genuinely thank your customers for giving you the opportunity to solve their problem in every interaction.
Spotlight some of your most valued customers on social media or your website.
4. Personalize your customer service
Although a company is defined by its brand, the positive interactions your customers have with people from your company will keep them coming back for more. This is because a person isn't loyal to a brand – they’re loyal to people. And that’s why personalized service is one of the foundations of customer loyalty.
Too many companies make the mistake of treating their customers anonymously. 56% of customers report having to repeat themselves when talking to customer support, which makes them feel invisible and unheard.
If you treat customers like people and they get to know your team, they will feel far more loyal. And we don’t mean using algorithms to predict customer behavior – it’s time to get up close and personal with your customers.
For example, here are three ways you can personalize your customer service:
Use a warm transfer – in phone support, customers hate the “cold transfer” when they are passed on to another agent and need to repeat their problem all over again. Try making it a “warm transfer” by introducing your customer to your coworker, summarizing the problem, and listing solutions you’ve already tried.
Talk to your customers like humans – avoid business jargon like the plague, and try using more informal language or even emojis in your emails if it’s appropriate. This will humanize your correspondence.
Use your names – in a phone interaction, use both your customer’s name and your own name. In an email or live chat interaction, adding in a photograph of you in the signature as an avatar will make the exchange feel more human.
5. Be honest with your customers
In a poll by Cohn & Wolfe, customers identified the most important attribute of a company as communicating honestly about products and services. “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand,” says Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks. As most people value honesty, they will feel valued if you’re honest with them.
Truth-telling is an important component of building intimacy in any relationship. Being honest means you respect your customers enough to tell them the truth. That’s why you should tell your customers the truth even when you don’t have to, and even when you think it might damage your relationship.
Begin to tailor your communications with your customers so they don't only reflect the good things about your business. Start small, such as admitting you missed a deadline or made a mistake in pricing.
This also puts you in a good position to be honest with your customers when something goes really wrong. For example, there was the time that a Frontier Airlines flight to Denver was grounded in Wyoming due to bad weather, adding four hours to the scheduled 3-hour flight time. Passengers were hungry, tired and fed up. So the pilot paid for his passengers to have 30 take-out pizza from his own pocket, even though the difficult situation wasn’t his fault. This turned an unpleasant customer experience into a share-worthy story because the pilot addressed the problem honestly and took responsibility as the face of the company.
Over to you
Your loyal customers are far and away from your best customers. If you treat them like royalty, the results will show. All of these tips rely on being relentlessly customer-centric and prioritizing your customers over pure profit.
Author and speaker on sales and customer service, Jeffrey Gitomer, summed it up when he said, “You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.”
Although you can start using these quickfire tips right away, real loyalty takes time to earn. You won’t see the results overnight, but they will be worth the effort.