Columnist Erik Sherman wrote a fantastic article on Inc. a couple of weeks ago, on 7 Ways to Keep Customers (Really) Loyal. We loved the post, but as a provider of digital customer service to business, we had to add our tuppence-worth.
Below we've added a little bit extra to 4 of Erik's 7 Ways to Keep Customers (Really) Loyal, but you can read the original article in full here.
Listen to customers
Erik Sherman said that "one of the biggest insults you can deliver to people is to act as though they don't exist." And we couldn't agree more.
We think it's crucial to listen to every word your customer says, and not just get the gist of the problem and try to fob them off to another department with other customers in a similar (but not exact) situation.
One thing that we feel needs adding to this to make sure that customers remain loyal though is the need for businesses to act upon what they are listening to.
Of course you are going to listen to a customer complaint and then try your best to solve it but have you thought about listening to your customers and changing the whole way you do things. Imagine a customer hasn't been happy with their pre-sales advice from your sales team. They've got the wrong product for their needs so you offer a replacement. But how about changing your whole pre-sales process by starting to look at whether you are offering anywhere near the right advice in the first place?
Listen to what your customer is voicing about your products/services and use this to improve for when they return. The changes based on their recommendations will make them stay loyal.
Connect with customers
Connecting with customers has always been a crucial part of customer service. Your representatives need to show empathy and customers are far more likely to buy from people that they can relate to.
You don't want to make connecting with customers weird though. "Don't pretend to be like them: It's insulting, creepy, and obvious."
"As you show interest in who they are, you'll find they open up more and begin to relate to you, as well." We couldn't have put it any better. Show interest in your customers and their problem and they will begin to open up with you. Be human with them and they will be human with you.
Show your customers that you are there to solve the problems that they have. As you learn more about their problem you can learn more about them and "find common ground". You can then begin to connect with them whilst offering higher quality product and service recommendations.
"No matter how difficult you find a customer, focus yourself and staff on being the consummate professionals."
We agree that you've got to remain professional when a customer is being a bit of a pain or being a little irrational, but we don't think customer support should be too rigid. Be professional but be prepared to show your lighter side.
Not all customers communicating with you will be ones complaining. A lot of customers will already be happy and loyal to your business. Keep them that way by being friendly and sometimes a little informal.
If your customer is a bit of a joker then just go along with it and if it isn't a customer but just someone trolling you...why not have a little fun back?
Don't be boring
"When everything keeps going the same way, people tune out. Keep evolving your plans to increase customer loyalty."
Like we said with the first point, evolve your services based on your customers' feedback.
Also, don't follow scripts. And try to do some things the way that your customers want - not just the way that you've always done them.
If you follow the same old routine with every transaction then customers will start to feel like they are just being treated as a number...or one of the herd. Occasionally differentiating your interactions allows customers to notice they are getting a personalised service. And it keeps them loyal.