Monday November 26, 2012
by Loreen Salloum - Learning and development manager UAE
Let’s for a moment reflect on what truly makes us loyal to any specific brand. Is it the marketing? Maybe the price? Or a combination of things? If you asked any number of people on the street, without a doubt the experience they’d received as a customer would play heavily into how loyal they were to a particular brand. If they’d received abysmal service, would they return? If it was memorable and improved their visit to that hotel, restaurant, shop; they probably returned time and time again – and recommended them – that’s loyalty.
The impact of customer service on brand loyalty cannot be ignored; especially in this technological era where thoughts and feelings around service delivered can be shared in an instance. As a result; companies are shifting their attention away from the classic ‘customer service’ and towards creating a memorable ‘customer experience’ – empowering their people to create that critical ‘wow’ factor at every opportunity.
And it is this shift which theorist, Jessica Debor, refers to in her quote “loyalty is now driven primarily by a company’s interaction with its customers and how well it delivers on their wants and needs”. Memorable customer experience is all about identifying the needs and wants of the individual in front of you, and making the interaction with that person impactful – by being personable, real and using common sense to satisfy their needs, and the needs they might not even know they had. Included in this is being genuine even if it’s a written requirement of the role – for example, have you ever been on the receiving end of a forced smile because the standard operating manual says they have to do it; not because they want to? How did this make you feel as a customer?
All of this clicked into place for me last month when I was out at my favourite restaurant with friends. I realised how truly loyal I am to this specific restaurant; finding myself constantly returning whether it’s for dinner, cocktails, appetisers and business meetings. The environment is cosy and clean, the food is tasty and fresh, however the reason I am loyal is because of the experience I receive whenever I’m there. The people working are extremely friendly, polite, real and personable – they make sure I am ‘wowed’ no matter how many times I’ve been before.
Another example of creating a great customer experience is one which involves an online flower delivery company – an organisation which does not have a visible, front-line customer service assistant. My friend recently received an email reminder 10 days before her sister’s birthday. The subject line was personalised with her sister’s name: “Remember Helen’s birthday is coming up soon!”.Even though it was a very simple piece of marketing, it was of huge value to my friend (as it prompted her to purchase a bouquet) and by personalising it made her feel it wasn’t a generic marketing communication – thus improving her experience. She went on to tell me, and our friends, of this and as a result they gained several new customers.
It’s this type of behaviour,which achieves loyalty and advocacy. With these examples in mind, let’s explore what they had in common:
- delivered VALUE
- were RELEVANT
- created RELATIONSHIPS; and
- were PERSONAL
Four elements which are very simple to achieve, yet offer a high return – research has shown that creating a loyal advocate costs up to seven times less than acquiring a completely new customer.
And it doesn’t have to cost anything to create. Johnny worked as a “bagger” in his local grocery shop. After seeing motivational speaker, Barbara Glanz, he was inspired to create a ‘thought for the day’; which he gave to every customer who came through his checkout.This was touching for many reasons and makes you aware that everyone can make a difference within an organisation despite the position within the hierarchy of the company, yet the genuine desire to do more than be ‘just a bagger’ ultimately formed the essentials for creating memorable customer experiences – he gave them added value, the thought was relevant to those who visited his till, these customers returned again and again to get new ‘thoughts’ and he was personable when delivering his service – a service which is hard to forget and not recommend.
Are you loyal to a brand or a certain product or service? How would you define memorable customer experience? More importantly, what would your customers say?