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Word of mouth is worth its weight in gold. Well, technically it doesn’t weigh anything, but it will certainly have a golden effect on your bottom line.

On average, happy customers will tell nine friends about their experience, while unhappy customers will tell sixteen. Once those negative comments make their way to online reviews and social media, there is no telling how much business you could lose to a single customer service experience gone awry.

Customer loyalty made simple

According to consumer research, 71% of customers who end business relationships do so because of a negative customer service experience. That’s a lot. But the good news is, that’s 71% more business you can maintain by providing exceptional customer service.

To garner the kind of customer loyalty that will help you rise above your competition, get to know your customers, what it is they want, and what you can offer them that others can’t.

1. Establish a personal relationship with your customers

No two customers are created equal. In general, they all have enough in common to seek out your product or service, but that doesn’t mean they all have the same expectations. Some are comfortable browsing FAQs to find answers to their questions, while others expect those answers to be handed to them on a silver platter.

By understanding your customer’s expectations (and their limits), you can get ahead of any potential problems before they begin.

2. Listen to your customers

It sounds obvious, but often companies assume they understand their customer concerns because they’ve seen them before. They lump them all in together and automate responses that don’t really address the problem at hand.

In some cases, the issue is obvious: a faulty product or a long wait to reach customer support. Other times it is more nuanced. Some clients wish to resolve their problems without the help of customer support and get frustrated when they can’t find the information they need. In this case, the problem lies with the content available on your site, not your procedures.

3. Don’t automate your responses

While it is enticing to think that you can save time automating generic responses to customer complaints, it does little to alleviate their frustrations. The first line of any response to a customer support issue should directly reference the problem they are experiencing:

Generic Response

“We’re so sorry to hear you weren’t satisfied with your experience.”

Personal Response

“We can’t believe you had to wait so long on hold and still didn’t find the answers you were looking for! We know your time is valuable and we want to make sure we get it taken care of as quickly as possible.”

Keep them involved in the conversation. Ask questions. A generic response is a great way to ensure they forget to hit reply, give up, and never do business with you again.

4. Never underestimate a great ending

Everyone loves a good ending and customer service is no exception. A warm greeting is a great start, but your personality and concern for your customer’s best interests should carry all the way to the end.

Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and let them know how valuable their feedback is to your business. Include a promise to address the problem, not just for their sake, but for all potential customers who might feel the same way.

5. A little discount goes a long way

Regardless of the product or service you provide, it is always a good idea to include something that will entice a disgruntled customer to come back. A link with a discount code at the end of your support interaction can be enough to keep them interested and give your business another try.

6. Make your team members part of the process

It’s easy to write customer service guidelines and include them in every new employee packet, but the true definition of customer service can be difficult to define, and still does very little to ensure that each employee understands why it is important.

It also doesn’t tell you whether or not those guidelines are working. Your team members are on the front line and understand your customer needs more than anyone. Ask them questions. Find out what, if anything, is preventing them from providing the kind of service that will increase your customer loyalty (and your revenue).

7. Incentive with rewards, not warnings

Employee morale makes a big difference when it comes to customer service. Happy employees create happy customers, and there is no quicker way to increase customer loyalty than to celebrate your team’s successes more often than you highlight their failures.

There is a good chance your employees don’t care as much about customer loyalty as you do. Give them a reason. Offer perks like gift certificates or additional vacation days, create an employee of the month program, or simply feature them in your company emails as examples of what great customer service looks like.

How to turn your customer satisfaction into a secret weapon

8. Don’t meet your customer expectations, exceed them

You listen carefully to each customer complaint and address it with genuine sympathy and concern for their well-being. You also listen to your employees and address their grievances. Now what?

How do you ensure that a negative customer experience won’t be enough for your customers to throw in the towel? By getting to know your customers REALLY well and offering them something unique.

A. Follow your customers on social media. 

Learn something about them that isn’t obvious. Look at their photos, where they check in, what kind of movies they watch, and books they like to read

B. Send them something meaningful. 

Check out this gift General Electric sent to one of their fans. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Send it on their birthday, after a negative experience, or simply because they care enough about your company to engage with you regularly online. You will not only establish a more meaningful relationship with that particular customer but also with all of their friends and followers.

9. Make customer loyalty your first priority

This is another one of those suggestions that sounds too obvious to consider, especially when you already chose to read a blog post called “9 Proven Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty Through Improved Customer Experience.” But the reality is, most companies consider it an afterthought. As long as there isn’t a problem, there is no need for a solution.

Look for solutions to problems that haven’t occurred. Ask your customers what they want and let them know when you’ve incorporated their suggestions. Even better, credit them for it. How could a customer not want to remain loyal to a brand that gives them credit for their success?

Customer loyalty is one of the most important brand differentiators, and yet it often gets overlooked. If you want to show your customers how much you care but you’re not sure where to start, start with SmileBack.