The best customer loyalty practices are those that are lined up with the company’s goals and beliefs. There are innumerable examples of customer service, where company representatives have gone above and beyond their call of duty to ensure customers’ happiness.
Ritz Carlton alone has several amazing stories of outstanding customer service, like the time they gave the vacation of a lifetime to a lost stuffed toy, or flew out the chef’s mother-in-law from Singapore to Bali to deliver specialized eggs and milk, or went snorkeling to find a pair of customer’s sunglasses.
So how do some companies deliver such amazing experiences time after time, while others just don’t get it?
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Here are some best practices that will let your staff deliver wow experiences that will delight the most demanding customers.
#1: Give liberty to representatives
It isn’t unusual for customer care associates to balk, become defensive or uneasy at an unusual request from a customer, and spew out the all-too-common “I’ll have a word with my manager and get back to you on that, sir.” That’s why it is super important for your staff to have liberty and autonomy in making on-the-spot decisions.
For instance, Ritz-Carlton gives each of its staff members up to $2,000 to be used to solve customer complaints or go the extra mile in any manner they deem appropriate. Zappos has built a customer-first culture that encourages call agents to stay on the line as long as they think necessary, and this has resulted in some of the longest customer service calls in history.
#2: Streamline processes
Customer service doesn’t end at front desk or call center. Managers need a streamlined process from top to bottom to ensure all departments, from purchase to engineering, from marketing to sales to customer support, are on the same page.
This requires sophisticated project management and collaboration tools – WorkZone and Zoho are a couple of my favorites – that take into account complex tasks and automatically figures our interdependencies between milestones, deliverables, users and departments. You can’t expect managers to streamline communications or stay on top of inventory flow by handing them a threadbare “messaging app” like Slack or even Basecamp.
#3: Deliver an omnichannel experience
Today’s consumers interact with companies through several channels including but not limited to website, email, phones, brick and mortar stores, contact centers, kiosks, and social media. A flexible omnichannel customer service ecosystem empowers your customers to have a responsive, personalized and seamless experience – they can buy on multiple platforms, submit queries, initiate returns, use discount vouchers, benefit from loyalty programs, and so on.
An omnichannel presence and marketing directly affects customer retention. Companies with strong omnichannel strategies retain an average 89 percent of their customers as opposed to 33 percent who don’t use omnichannel or have a weak omnichannel strategy.
#4: Put data to good use
Data has always been at the center of a business research. Managers have time and again expressed their undying love for Excel reports and charts that answer pressing questions. Now, with advanced data analytics techniques, businesses are better equipped to make decisions based on customer data.
This data should be sourced from customer profiles, call records, social media posts, comments, reviews, emails, et al and organized in a structured, accessible format, so you can deliver a great experience anytime, anywhere.
#5: Boost employee empathy
Nearly 80 percent consumers bail out of a brand relationship because of poor customer service. Often lack of empathy is blamed for slipshod service. But sometimes, poor service isn’t always a result of lack of concern for the customer, but rather unavailability of resources or insufficient ability to be able to fulfil customer’s wishes.
For instance, a call center agent would be more empathetic towards customers when he knows if the customer is happy, chatty, sarcastic, serious, or shy, as soon as the call comes through. Modern call routing software such as MatterSight uses “predictive behavioral routing” algorithms to identify the best agent to handle each caller based on the agent’s skills, performance and aptitude, as well as the customer’s personality and behavioral characteristics – a foolproof formula to boost employee-customer empathy, reduce call lengths, speed up problem resolution, and ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
#6: Get creative, be unique, think disruptive
There are a million ways to get creative and wow your customer. You can spend millions of dollars on software, loyalty programs and deals, but a creative thank you gift or a thoughtful email might just work equally well. Make sure your sales and creative teams work in unison to deliver magical experiences to your customers.
One of the best tricks to cut through the noise is to do something different. For example, try sending a card to mothers on any other day except Mother’s day, saying every day is a mother’s day. Better yet, celebrate Black Valentine’s Day for singles:
While it is far cheaper to retain customers than to acquire them, retention demands that much more creativity.
Customer retention is a huge challenge given that nearly half of your customers would take their business to a competitor within a day of experiencing poor customer service or getting a coupon. Yet, only 32 percent executives acknowledged customer retention as a priority.
Over to you
I hope I’ve emphasized in no uncertain terms that there is a dire need for companies to prioritize customer retention and brand loyalty. Following these best practices will also serve to improve your internal processes and refine your brand image.
Are you using any of these methods to influence brand sentiment? What do your favorite customers think about you? Do your employees consistently meet your company’s benchmark for customer service? I’d love to hear amazing stories on customer loyalty and service – care to share in the comments?