This week’s guest post is from Rhonda Basler, director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. I have been a longtime fan of her blog so I’m honored that she is sharing her customer experience insight here. I am convinced that if you commit to following consistently these five essentials, you will Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience.
What does it take for your business to create remarkable experiences for your customers?
Think about that for a second.
Today’s customers don’t just want more from companies – they expect more from companies. Research shows 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated, which means it’s up to companies to deliver the kind of experience customers are looking to have.
At Hallmark Business Connections, we believe in the power of the human connection. By providing customer care that supports your brand’s vision, mission and values, you inspire customer advocates to truly believe in your company’s products, services, and brand, and to share their positive feelings with others (friends, family, acquaintances, social media networks, etc.).
Here’s a closer look at 5 ways to earn customer advocacy through inspired customer service:
1. Commit Random Acts of Kindness
Independent consumer trends firm trendwatching.com has identified unexpected, meaningful actions as a major customer trend in business and I think we all know why: It’s the right thing to do.
Creating meaningful experiences for your customers doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive. Sometimes, it’s the smallest gestures – taking the time to listen and encourage someone in need or sharing a story or joke – that can have the biggest impact.
Committing these random acts of kindness can go a long way toward fostering customer loyalty, so it’s important for your company to consider what it can do to make the experience truly special to the individual. Only then can you provide the types of experiences that touch customers on an emotional level and create greater engagement with your company.
2. Be Proactive
Creating meaningful experiences for customers doesn’t just build customer advocacy: It also makes good business sense. After all, Bain & Company research shows it costs six to seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers.
To inspire true customer advocacy, you need to find ways of going above and beyond to show customers you’re committed to providing an exceptional customer experience. Examples of this type of proactivity involve checking in with customers to uncover the root causes of problems and fix issues before customers have the opportunity to get in touch with your company themselves.
This investment in improving customer retention is well worth going the extra mile. Try thinking about it this way: Instead of investing money to replace customers that have been lost, you’re focusing instead on building such solid relationships with customers that they refer you to new customers.
3. Offer a Plus One
According to McKinsey research, word of mouth is a primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. People trust friends and family more than virtually any other information source; in fact, they’ll pay two times more attention to recommendations from friends than other sources.
Given the importance of word of mouth referrals, make sure you’re giving your customers something to talk about! In every customer experience interaction, associates should surprise and delight customers with an unexpected, extra benefit that’s unique, thoughtful, and relevant to the individual.
These sorts of “plus one” benefits can make all the difference when it comes to not only the individual customer’s experience, but also the anecdotal stories that get shared with others.
4. Show Your Gratitude
The key to providing a positive customer experience is to make the experience meaningful and memorable enough for customers to still be sharing it with friends and family days, weeks, or even months later. There are many ways to do this, but sometimes the most effective is communicating two simple little words: Thank you.
Displaying heartfelt, sincere gratitude to customers is memorable – and it opens the door to doing business again. Acknowledging and expressing that you know the business would not exist without your customers can have a huge impact on how they feel about your company.
5. Put Yourself in the Customers’ Shoes
The business implications of the customer experience are huge: 55% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience and 89% of customers would quit doing business with a company following a poor customer experience.
What does this mean? For starters, it reinforces the pivotal role customer service plays in the way your customers feel about your company, which translates directly into how much they trust your company. But, to go a level or two deeper, it also suggests the importance of empathy as it pertains to the customer experience.
Hearing – and, more importantly, understanding – the emotions of customers can augment a positive experience or turn around a negative one. To truly understand what matters to customers (and provide the best possible experience for the individual), you need to be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Research, in fact, shows conveying this type of empathy can make or break a business.
Let’s go back to our question at the very beginning of this post: What can your company do to create remarkable experiences for your customers?
Keeping the above tactics in mind, try thinking about the various ways you can transform a customer experience from adequate to outstanding. By providing top-notch customer service at every step of the way, you can create the type of customer advocates who will share their positive experiences and inspire those around them to do the same.
To learn more about Hallmark Business Connections’ approach to creating a differentiated customer experience, watch our “5 Essentials For Creating a Differentiated Customer Experience” video:
Rhonda Basler is the Director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. An avid business trend watcher and strategic thinker, Rhonda’s customer advocacy expertise stems from more than 29 years of experience in data-driven and brand marketing for major corporations as well as small companies.