What organisation wouldn’t like a big leap in customer loyalty? What magical marketing promotion would deliver a result like that?
The quick answer is that there isn’t one, because if you are looking to marketing to deliver customer loyalty you are probably looking in the wrong place. While marketing can generate customer interest, the area that can deliver that kind of a result is mostly tucked away in a corner – it’s called customer service.
Yes. Just talking to your customers and helping solve their problems can deliver a significant increase in their loyalty (some sources put it as high as 40%). So why don’t more companies go out of their way to make getting this right a priority?
There is a pretty famous joke about this – I’d forgotten it until I was reading my friend Cindy Solomon’s book on Customer Service called The Rules of Woo. It goes something like this:
A guy dies and finds himself at the Pearly Gates. The guard at the gates is holding a clipboard checking off customers as they arrive. The guard looks up and smiles as he sees the new gentleman in line. He says, “You are so lucky that you died today! There’s a special we’re offering today only!” “Really?” He says. “Yeah, you get to choose whether you want to go to Heaven or Hell.”
The guy says, “Well, how will I know?” The guard quickly responds, “Not to worry! We let you go stay a day in each one so you can make an informed decision about where you want to spend all eternity.”
The guy says, “OK. I think I’d like to go to Hell first.” The guard smiles and motions him into the elevator right behind him. “Great! Down you go!” The doors open up onto a white sandy beach. People are playing in the surf, drinking drinks with little umbrellas, dancing to a calypso band. It’s absolutely… well, heaven!
He spends his day and comes back up in the elevator saying: “That was wonderful! I can’t wait to see what Heaven is like!” Up he goes in the elevator again. The doors open on white fluffy clouds, harp music and lots of smiling, happy people. It’s very nice but not really very exciting. He comes back down in the elevator and says to the guard: “I can’t believe I am going to say this but… I’d like to go to Hell please.” The guard says no problem and down he goes in the elevator again.
The doors open but this time instead of his beach and Calypso music he’s greeted by people running, screaming, fire, brimstone. He’s standing there… dumbfounded. The devil comes up to him and barks: “What’s your problem? Get in here!” And the guy responds, stuttering: “There must be some mistake! I was here yesterday! There was a beach, drinks with little umbrellas! What happened?!”
The devil responds: “We get this all the time. Yesterday you were a prospect. Today you’re a customer!”
Does that ring a bell? Forget your own organisation for a minute – how about when you are on the other side of the trade – when you’re the customer? The mountain of customer complaint stories about some of our biggest companies suggests that it’s a feeling we’ve all had at one time or another.
How much time, energy and money do you spend on your existing customers? If it isn’t at least somewhat proportional to the amount you spend to get them in the first place then the chances that you can build a strong brand are next to none. Churn is the enemy of brand.
I also don’t want to pretend that some customers aren’t a nightmare. There are plenty of “customerzillas” out there, who will never be happy no matter how many hoops you jump through. Those aren’t the people I am talking about.
What I am talking about is the other 98% of your customers, who with all good intentions, purchase your product or service. Only it isn’t what they expected, or it doesn’t work right. So they call to see if you can help them sort it out. They just want a fair resolution to their issue. If it doesn’t work they would probably like their money back, or for it to be fixed. If it isn’t what they expected, they would like to get what they did expect (where those expectations came from is a whole other blog).
If they don’t get a fair resolution, chances are they will just take their business elsewhere, almost certainly telling a few friends along the way about what happened.
What many customers get instead of that fair resolution is any of the following; defensiveness, ‘it isn’t our fault’, runaround, ‘I can’t help you, but let me transfer you to someone who can’ (or usually who can’t), delay, ‘let me get back to you on that’, hostility and ‘it’s your own fault’. That’s just to name a few.
By the time you have run the customer through any of the myriad of combinations of these things that make up what passes for modern customer service you have burned more time and effort (and yes money) than just solving the problem would have cost. And also cost yourself a customer and some bad word-of-mouth in the process.
Here’s a customer service suggestion. Be gracious (suggested by my friend @cindysolomon). Sounds like a quaint 19th century idea, but just this simple attitude can make the world of difference.
When you are gracious blame will have no part to play in the conversation. The tone is civil and even friendly. You are thankful for your customer and want to help if you can. Even the angriest customers will wilt a bit when confronted with a bit of understanding and a gracious attitude.
So, if you want that loyalty bump, it might be time to think about the resources you are allocating to keeping your current customers happy – well not just happy but as I like to call it ‘tell their friends happy’, because that is what loyal customers do. And it is part of how strong, resilient brands are built.
For a grab bag of customer loyalty statistics sure to make you think click here.
See you next week.
Get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at [email protected].
Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.