Most businesses spend the majority of their money and time acquiring customers and building products. Sadly, customer retention and happiness are often an afterthought.
And that leads to customer churn. When looked at like a bucket, some companies are very leaky - lots of water pouring in to the top, and most of it soon leaking out.
One of the reasons for this is because customer hunting and new business development seems more exciting. There’s immediate feedback.
Customer retention, on the other hand can seem boring - more like farming than hunting.
In Noah Fleming’s new book, Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving, he hilariously frames this customer acquisition versus customer retention dichotomy like a sex addiction:
In the marketing world, retention is boring and optimization (especially around acquiring new customers) is sexy. It feels great, and you get practically immediate feedback on how good your marketing is and if it’s working— very similar to, well, sex.
When a large organization steps up to the plate and spends big bucks to run something like a Super Bowl advertisement, it’s pretty simple to measure results almost immediately after the campaign runs. Websites crash, customers tweet, fans like the Facebook page, and sales increase. It often provides instant gratification, and it feels good— again, very similar to, well, sex.
No question about it, the ability to stimulate immediate sales is sexy. But I’m not convinced it is doing us any good in the long run— especially when those same organizations aren’t focused on keeping the customers they just spent Fort Knox to get.
Emotions aside, research shows that delighting your existing customers is good for business:
It is 6-7x more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
And the ability to stand out versus your competition by delighting your customers is prime for the picking:
7% of consumers say that their customer service experiences with companies typically exceed their expectations (Echo 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer)
That’s huge. If 93% of customer service expectations are not being met, even just showing a little bit of of love to your customers can make a big difference in turning them into happy customers who buy more and promote your business to others.
The customer experience is formed by every interaction with your company, not just during the sales process. At its heart, customer delight is all about building trust. You build it while making the sale, so don’t stop once they are a customer.
Customer loyalty is pretty strong stuff. Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action explains, “Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or price to continue doing business with you.”
To thrill your customers and build loyalty, preference and army of promoters, start with these 7 areas and you’ll soon be outflanking your competition’s customer acquisition efforts:
If your employees are happy, your customers will be happy. Let’s go back to Simon Sinek: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Customers and employees are a business’ greatest assets.
And the secret sauce behind delighting your customers is your hiring methodology. Create a set of culture-specific interview questions, have the interviewee meet with multiple people and create pre-hire culture immersion experiences. Create a hiring methodology that tests skills, culture fit, beliefs, experience and ideas.
Online retailer Zappos has grown quickly and profitably by perfecting the art of customer happiness. Zappos CEO Tony Heish offers why: “Customer service shouldn't just be a department, it should be the entire company.”
Every single (small) customer interaction with a company makes a big difference because they collectively create a larger experience. Are all interactions consistent? Is there a common thread?
You can create that common thread by developing team principles that your employees live by. Principles create autonomy and empower employees to make decisions on their own. And the most important principle should be that employees should always solve for the customer.
Teach employees the fundamentals of delighting customers. Implement a new hire training program and then keep all employees marinating in the philosophy and importance of solving for the customer with ongoing training.
Teach by doing, not with lectures or presentations. Make it fun. Share stories of what great customers service resembles. Everyone at your organization should be educating others in some capacity.
You’ve inculcated your employees with a customer-oriented philosophy and are reinforcing that with ongoing training. Now encourage your employees to go forth and do great work. Empower them.
One of the most effective ways to empower your employees is to clearly define customer personas. Build an archetype of each of the primary customers you have so that employees can better understand their challenges and motivations. Having well defined customer personas also helps employees to anticipate how they can be more helpful and add value to the relationship.
Make sure the focus on employee empowerment is solving for the customer, providing recommendations and being enthusiastic (and fun). Pro-tip: Under promising and over delivering is a rare, powerful and memorable experience for customers.
Listen actively and passively. With social media, you can set up alerts for mentions of your product so that you can answer customer questions that are directed at you (e.g. via Tweets) or not directed specfically to you. Also, set up alerts so that when something is published on the Internet about you (good or bad) you can respond when appropriate.
When conversing with customers, try not to do most of the talking. Follow the 80/20 rule – let the customer do 80% of the talking. Doing so provides valuable information and makes the customer feel heard.
To make sure you’ve heard the customer correctly, repeat what they have said. This clarifies communication errors and shows empathy for the customer. And in all communication with customers, document everything so that you can be of greater service in the future and so that you can refine and improve your company's customer service.
This helps make sure you understand the customer and their problem, but it also helps you to better educate them. Ask open ended questions to get the customer to elaborate. Doing so will help you better understand and refine your customer persona so that you can better serve them in the future.
Measure and track all those interactions. You’ll quickly start to see what’s working and where further customer delight opportunities exist. Then, do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working.
Are you, in fact, helping to resolve their problem? Make sure of this – ask the customer. Just asking this question is uncommon, and builds trust and loyalty.
But do more than just help. Educate. The most successful businesses are usually the best educators. You may be creating content for prospective customers, but are you also creating content for your customers? Content examples include blogs, interactive tools, photos, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations and ebooks.
Creating content for your customers helps to educate and build trust, loyalty and promoters of your business. Especially important is content created for when they first become a customer and throughout the onboarding process, especially the first 90 days. Doing so ensures your customers are successfully using (or enjoying) your product or service. If a customer is not successfully using your product they are not likely to remain a customer.
When helping customers, make sure to use checklists whenever possible. Are you solving a customer problem that has never existed before? Start a new checklist. Using a checklist makes your employees better problem solvers.
Woody Allen once said “80 percent of success is showing up.” The same could be said for following up. These days, just following up with customers surprises them. Sad, but true.
Again, make sure you’ve resolved their problem. Ask them. And, be on time and don’t take longer to resolve problems than you promised. Remember the power of over promising and under delivering.
With people, it’s not what you say but how you make them feel that creates a lasting relationship. And every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to build trust and loyalty, and create a promoter of your company. If your employees solve first for the customer, the sales numbers will start going up and to the right.