Providing excellent customer experience will help your business build customer loyalty. The benefits are obvious — loyal customers tend to purchase more frequently, are brand advocates who freely recommend your business to others, and it costs less to sell to them. Understanding how to keep your customers happy is the key to building customer loyalty. The following are ten strategies you can use to improve the customer experience and increase customer loyalty. These strategies will help your brand survive the COVID-19 pandemic and set the foundation for continued success.
10 Strategies to Increase Customer Loyalty
1. Customer Care Comes First – If you want to build brand loyalty, you must place customer care in a key position of your overall business strategy. From top management on down, emphasis should be placed on putting the customer at the center of your business. A study by Wunderman found that the majority (79%) of consumers said brands have to actually demonstrate that they understand and care about them before they are going to consider purchasing. In addition, the research also identified that the competitive landscape has changed with 87 percent of US consumers now evaluating brands against leading companies like Amazon, Uber, and Netflix, which have effectively set new standards of excellence that extend beyond traditional product categories.
2. Make Life Easier – Make your customer’s life easier with initiatives to improve the customer experience. As disruptive companies leverage breakthroughs in cloud, mobile, social, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver personalized, valuable, and immediate experiences, customers have more choices than ever. As a result, they expect this superior experience from any business they engage with. The ripple effect of a single bad experience or missed customer expectation goes beyond a lost sale. Fifty-seven percent of customers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience. What’s more, 62 percent of customers say they share bad experiences with others. With the proliferation of peer review sites and social media, a disappointed customer can inflict widespread reputational damage.
Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse survey found that 85 percent of customers are frustrated by dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them, 84 percent by companies promising one thing, but delivering another; and 58 percent are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel. Customers expect digital, at-home, and low-touch options. Companies should also re-examine offering omnichannel fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in-store.
Concentration should be placed on being reliable for scheduled deliveries, being able to fulfill orders, keeping customers informed, personalizing service, and measuring customer service levels. Delivering personalized experiences drives customer loyalty, with 70 percent of consumers saying a company’s understanding of their individual needs influences their loyalty, and 69 percent saying the same of personalized customer care.
3. Encourage Customer Feedback – Encourage complaints and praise by opening all lines of communication via email, telephone, online chat and social media. Companies should look to quick and novel ways to keep a pulse on consumer sentiment. The Harris Poll conducted between late March and early May this year found that between 46 percent and 51 percent of US adults were using social media more since the pandemic began. Mobile messaging in 2020 is expected to grow to 24 minutes per day, not only due to the pandemic but also data showing strong engagement on messaging services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple iMessage. The surge in adoption of social media and mobile messaging offers brands the opportunity to gather customer insights and to rapidly understand consumer sentiment and develop new strategies.
Marketers should also leverage their customer databases to follow up with current customers and see why you haven’t heard from old customers. Just like you, your customers are enduring massive upheaval. They’re making difficult decisions: who can be trusted, who will help make things better, who keeps their promises. And when this crisis is behind us, as it surely will be, customers will remember the brands that satisfied their rational needs — and those that genuinely met their emotional needs during a very tough time. Be prompt with answers. Give customers credit for their ideas. Their feedback and engagement are important, let them know you appreciate it.
Gallup research shows that engaged customers (B2C) — those who strongly agree that the brand they patronize “always delivers on what they promise,” that it’s “the perfect company for people like me” and that they’re “proud to be a customer” — return a 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer. Key customer engagement trends that emerged from the research by industry include:
- Retail banking customers who are fully engaged bring 37 percent more annual revenue to their primary bank than actively disengaged customers.
- Consumer electronics shoppers who are fully engaged spend 29 percent more per shopping trip than actively disengaged customers.
- Hotel guests who are fully engaged spend 46 percent more per year than actively disengaged guests.
- Companies that successfully engage their business-to-business(B2B) customers realize a 63 percent lower customer attrition, 55 percent higher share of wallet, and 50 percent higher productivity.
4. Communicate – It’s critical to understand what your customers are looking for right now — it might be reassurance about your store cleanliness efforts or your support for affected employees, rather than your core product. 4A’s Research found that more than half (56%) of consumers are pleased to hear about brands taking actions to help out communities, like making donations of goods and services.
Each touchpoint has its own cost implications and perceived benefits to your customer. In developing your customer communication plan, leverage each touchpoint to focus on what really matters to your customer — creating concise, relevant, and compelling messages that build relationships based on your customers’ needs.
Contact customers throughout the customer journey. A Google study found that 62% of customers find it extremely/very important to be able to call your business at the purchase stage. Inform, educate, and ask how they feel after the sale. Communication should be initiated through all channels. 51 percent of U.S. consumers are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication.
Cultivating customer relationships on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram is a meaningful way to create loyal customers and brand followers who continue to purchase your products and services and act as your brand ambassadors. Ideally, your social listening tool will pick up every topic and every conversation about your brand. Respond to all complaints, comments, and mentions, both positive and negative, in a timely manner. This shows that you care about your customer’s opinions and problems, which can help to establish further connections.
Social Media During COVID-19 Pandemic
According to Sitel Group’s COVID-19: the CX Impact study consumers are being sensitive to the current climate when leaving negative reviews and stopping business with brands:
- Just one in ten (10%) consumers have left a negative review for a brand/company during the COVID-19 pandemic (a dramatic decrease of 30% since early March).
- Nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers spoke with a customer service representative (e.g., a human being or digital representative) about the problem they were having before leaving a negative review.
- More than a third (37%) of consumers left a negative review during the pandemic because the product/service didn’t meet their expectations.
- More than two in five (43%) consumers would stop doing business with a company during the COVID-19 pandemic if they received poor customer experience (down 30% since early March).
Consumers appreciate brands’ needs to implement policies that negatively impact their experience during the pandemic:
- More than a third (36%) view brands more positively because of policies the brand implemented (e.g., longer shipping times, limited hours of operation, etc.) due to COVID-19 that may negatively impact their experience.
- Nearly half of consumers (49%) have not changed their opinion of brands for implementing these policies, and just 9% view brands more negatively for implementing these policies.
Social media enables brands to play a wider role in the lives of your customers, going beyond the transaction to deliver more personalized value. Social media can enhance brand perception and foster advocacy and loyalty.
Consumers Want to Hear From Brands
Research shows that the industry sectors consumers have heard more from are perceived as handling the crisis better than those that are less outspoken. Across the board, consumers have had a net positive perception of every industry sector’s responses to coronavirus.
Many companies are using this difficult time to display venerable corporate social responsibility (CSR) by giving back and supporting communities across the United States.
I’ve worked with retail brands like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Ulta, Petco, and other successful brands to help them engage, keep, and grow profitable relationships. Brands see success when they use personalization to address individual motivators, buying behaviors, and emotional triggers.
As a loyalty trend, we see a rise in brands recognizing the value of engaging belief-driven buyers, both inside their loyalty programs and beyond. For example, REI donates $0.10 per REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard purchase transaction made to the REI Foundation, up to $1 million. REI Foundation is a 501c3 private charity that aims to: rewild cities, keep wild places wild, connect underrepresented groups to the outdoors; demonstrate nature’s health benefits, and advance climate action. Another example is the DSW and Soles4Souls partnership. DSW VIP members can donate a pair of new or lightly worn shoes at any location and receive 50 reward points. Or they can donate their Reward points to the charity.
5. Loyalty Program – Loyalty programs are emerging as a means to an end for insight and experience delivery. And the best loyalty programs set a brand’s loyalty strategy as the outcome of all the experiences a customer has with a brand and reframes the loyalty programs as the source of customer insight needed to meet and personalize customer experiences.
The wealth of customer insight generated by loyalty programs enables data-driven insights on an individual level and address motivators, buying behaviors, and emotional triggers that can be leveraged to great benefit — at scale.
It’s not surprising that brands that are genuinely helpful, removing points of friction, increasing relevance, and making people feel acknowledged and valued are successful. “Companies overwhelmingly recognize that personalization is an inextricable part of good customer experience and want to deliver on that,” Andy Zimmerman, chief marketing officer, Evergage.
A recent study found that when marketers personalize, they see advances their customer relationships (98%) – with 7 in 10 (70%) describing the impact as “strong” or “extremely strong.” In addition, nine in 10 marketers (90 percent) report a measurable lift in business results, attributable to personalization, and 58 percent say that lift is greater than 10 percent. Among marketers who use machine-learning personalization, 77 percent see a lift greater than 10 percent.
6. Employee Training – Make sure that all employees have the training and understand their mission. Policies that reduce friction for consumers and empower employees bring higher customer satisfaction—and foster greater loyalty.
Encourage employees to think like a customer. Ask your front-line employees what they think might improve customer loyalty. Being heard is a fundamental need. And during times of crisis, that need grows stronger. Take their feedback, evaluate the financial viability of implementing the best ideas, and recognize the employees’ contribution to the company’s success. Use their feedback to make data-driven decisions and continue to drive a people-centered culture. There’s a clear correlation: more people report feeling engaged at work when they’re being asked for feedback (59%) than those who aren’t (49%).
Everyone in the business should know how to communicate and listen to customers. As part of your customer loyalty strategy, create an internal communication plan to inform employees of any changes in how they fulfill customer needs. When everybody works toward a common goal, each department becomes more effective and driven. And when departments work well together, employees feel a real sense of belonging.
7. Leverage Technology – Take advantage of any technological changes that can help with increased customer loyalty. Speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service matter most to over 70 percent of consumers. Also investing in personalization efforts to build relationships and create better experiences can pay off with serious rewards for brands. nearly all consumers (91 percent) are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations. Seventy-five percent of consumers say they would find it valuable to create and manage a “style profile”, or a living profile, that brands could use to better curate personalized experiences and make recommendations.
8. Foster Employee Loyalty – Loyal employees are more willing to help you build brand loyalty. Take actions to display your appreciation for employees. Appreciation consistently ranks as one of the top culture drivers and it plays a big role in motivation, job satisfaction, and retention.
McKinsey’s Organization Practice provided two research-backed approaches employers can take to address employees’ needs during the pandemic. First, “use segmentation to identify which employees are struggling and what they need. Complement publicly available data with internal tools, such as open-listening channels, pulse surveys, and advanced analytics. Use these tools to understand the diverse set of challenges that employees and teams are facing and identify the best ways of supporting them where they’re struggling the most.”
Second, “take a personalized approach to foster culture and enable change. In driving new mindsets and behaviors (such as adapting to a new virtual-working model) at scale, it’s important to engage employees in a continual two-way dialogue that takes into consideration their specific needs, allows them to configure their own journeys, delivers personalized coaching, and provides them with a forum to share best practices with others who may share similar challenges.”
9. Be Reliable – Your company’s reputation is always on the line. Be a reliable choice for your customers and they will keep coming back. Honor your commitments and warranties. Always be considerate when listening to the concerns of your customers and immediately compensate them for any inconvenience.
10. Offer Great Products or Services – Your business is providing a solution to a customer’s problem. Everyone in your company should understand why your products or services are the best so they can relay that message to each customer.
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Filed under: Brand Loyalty