Before you can have loyal customers, you first must get them to come back. And then get them to come back again – and again. Loyalty doesn’t happen on the first interaction, and probably not the second. It’s a series of predictable and consistent experiences that get the customer to come back and eventually become loyal. They know what to expect. They “own” their experience with you.
I often remind my clients not to confuse a repeat customer with a loyal customer. That said, it does start with getting the customer back after the first time. I connected with Michael Burns, chief revenue officer at Aventri, a company that, in its own words, “helps event and meeting planners create valuable in-person experiences, grow influential communities, and expand brands.” Aventri has won multiple Stevie Awards for its exceptional customer service. While its business is interesting, I was more focused on what we can learn from a Stevie Award winner.
Here are some of Burns’ ideas, followed by my commentary.
1. Don’t assume you know why your customer is working with you: Don’t get comfortable with what you know about your customers. Their needs will change over time. What used to be important may not be anymore. Continuously engage with your customers to confirm you are giving them the best service and keeping up with their business. According to Burns, “The moment you don’t have to worry about them because they are comfortable, you’ll lose that connection.”
2. Never forget post-customer acquisition: One of my favorite sayings comes from my friend the late Dr. Larry Baker, who said, “The most abused customer is a sold customer.” Many refer to the customer’s decision to do business with you as “closing the customer.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Once the customer decides to do business with you, that’s the true start of the relationship. It’s up to your entire team to continuously prove to your customers that they made the right decision when they chose to do business with you – the first time and well into the future.
3. Train your entire staff on the customer experience: If you’ve been following my articles, you know I believe that customer service is not a department. On the contrary, it’s the company’s culture. It’s the philosophy of the leadership that permeates from the CEO to the newest hire. Everyone must be trained to understand this. No doubt the person in a warehouse or in the accounting department will be trained differently than someone on the front line, but everyone must be in alignment with the customer service vision. What’s happening on the inside of an organization is felt on the outside by the customer.
4. Forget B2B or B2C – it’s P2P: If you haven’t figured it out, P2P stands for “people-to-people.” That’s what business is all about – even online companies. A website is built by people to be used by people. Burns’ take on this is that integrating technology (like a chatbot or IVR) must strike a balance between tech and people. I’ve seen companies become so enamored with technology that they lose the human-to-human (also known as H2H) connection.
5. Give your customer a voice: Don’t forget to give your customers a voice in how they are treated. Done right, they love to share their feedback – both good and bad. Consider a customer advisory board or special events for customers to meet and share in a public forum how they best use your products and/or services – and how they think you could make them or the experience even better. Here’s something important: once you get that feedback, act on it. Asking for feedback and not acting on it frustrates both customers and employees, and that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
These five ideas are reminders that are not to be overlooked. Some of you may be thinking these are common sense, and maybe they are. But, are you actively implementing these tactics and strategies? These ideas provide opportunities to deliver the best service to your customers and an experience that will get them to come back again and again.
Writer at Tunayo Business Magazine