Unconditional Customer Loyalty: Lessons from My Dog
Some days, life is just so predictable – thank goodness! Every night, no matter what has happened during the day, when I pull into my driveway, there’s my floppy-eared Great Dane, smiling his doggy smile, waiting to race my car to the house with his ears striving for a Dumbo-like take off. Yes, even in the rain. And the snow. No matter what. Okay, so you may not be a dog lover. Substitute the smiling face of your child or the loving embrace of your significant other (maybe without the Dumbo ears) instead. If you think of it, you can see it – feel it – and the knowledge of that unwavering loyalty is an awesome feeling. You never want to be without it, and you strive to be near it whenever you can.
So what does this have to do with customer loyalty? How can I compare the unconditional love of a best friend – be it canine or human – with the love of customers for a brand or product or company? Easy. It’s the same. Yes, there are different levels and intimacies involved, but – when all is said and done – to earn customer loyalty, to make people want to be near you and your brand and your company, be a great friend!
1. Be there
It’s simple. Be there when you are needed. If I have a bad day or a sad moment, my floppy-eared dog is always there to sit next to me, throw a paw up on my lap, and just – be there. I can talk … or not. I can cry, laugh, or scream. He’s always there.
So be there for your customers when they need you – or when they just want to talk. Be accessible. Make sure there is a live answer available when your customers want it. If you can’t have it 24/7, work with industry experts to make sure you have it when your customers are most likely to want it. Get your speed of answer down as far as possible so your customers don’t have to wait for you. Make all channels available – email, chat, text, social. These days everyone has a mobile phone or a tablet or a laptop. If you want to be there for your customers, be there how they want you to be there. There are simple, cost-effective ways to do this, so work with your technology partners to get this in place! Make it easy to be your friend, and you make it easier to achieve customer loyalty.
2. Don’t judge
Who knows why I accidentally put on one brown and one blue sock? Maybe I was distracted, or maybe I’m not seeing as well as I used to. One thing I know is that my Dane doesn’t care one way or another. He still greets me with the same excitement, wags his tail at my voice, and follows me as I do my chores – no matter how inconsistent my footwear coloring.
So suspend judgment. It doesn’t matter what got the customers to the point where they needed to contact you. Maybe you wouldn’t have done things EXACTLY as they did. Maybe you have absolutely no idea what would make someone behave like your customers are behaving. It doesn’t matter. Greet them with the same smile in your voice that you would if you completely understood. Make them feel important and accepted. Who knows, maybe they are distracted, or maybe they’re not seeing as well as they used to.
Actually listen. When I talk to my Dane, he looks at me as if the meaning of the universe were in my words. Give that courtesy to your customers. Yes, it is important to handle calls efficiently and effectively, but that doesn’t mean robotically. Work with your technology partners so your call handling can be flexible – so you don’t have to interrupt what your customers are saying to bring them in line with your script. There are ways to get the information you need while listening actively and attentively without interrupting. Work with your industry and technology partners to find those ways! For emails and chats and texts – work with your partners to implement ways to serve up consistent, approved responses – but with a personal touch. Customers can tell if the answer to their email is not directly related to what they sent you. You wouldn’t answer a friend’s email with a completely stock answer, so don’t do that to your customers. There are cost-efficient, effective ways to give personal responses that are still brand consistent and corporate approved. Work to find them!
4. Be reliable
Just as I know my Dane will be waiting for me by the end of the driveway, he knows that his bowl will always have food, his water dish will always have water, and I’ll never return from a trip to the grocery store without rawhides or chewy bones. We both find comfort in this.
So be reliable. Set expectations and follow through. If you say you will be available, be available. If you say you will respond to an email within 24 hours, do it. If you tell a customer you will call them back and let them know what the lab findings are, do it. Don’t make them chase you. Keeping your word is key to improving customer loyalty. Work with your partners to develop processes and put technologies in place that allow you to be predictable and reliable to your customers. Always come back with rawhides!
5. Give them space
Just as important as being accessible is knowing when not to engage. When my Dane curls up for the night, I know he doesn’t want to be bothered. And when I tell him to lie down because I’m working on my laptop, he lies down until I’m done. (Okay, maybe he gives me some looks out of the corner of his eyes or sighs a few times to remind me he’s being ignored, but he waits nonetheless.)
So give your customers the same courtesy. Develop 360 degree views of your customers and work with your technology partners to make sure they are at your agents’ fingertips. Include how (and if) your customers prefer to be contacted, and respect their requests. You don’t want to be the annoying friend who calls at the wrong times, or calls too much, or sends too many emails about funny cats dressed up for Halloween. You want to be the friend they know will be there when needed, who will listen without judgment, who will do what they say they will do, and who will respect their privacy.
Be a great, loyal friend, and your customers will want to be around you. Just try and stop them!
Get in touch with Astute Solutions to learn how to improve customer loyalty through better customer experiences.