In today's competitive marketplace, how can you encourage customers to stay loyal to your brand and products when there are so many choices available? You have to provide an outstanding product, of course, and it must be appropriately priced, but there are a lot of companies that can do that. What will set you apart and build brand loyalty, however, is your customer support.
Why does brand loyalty matter?
Entrepreneur points out several reasons why brand loyalty is essential to your success in business:
- It costs less to keep a customer than it does to find a new customer.
- You're more likely to sell to a customer you already have.
- Word-of-mouth advertising is incredibly effective, and your loyal customers will do that for you.
The article also discusses the importance of customer service when building that brand loyalty. Not only does that high level of service increase your chance of retaining your customers over a longer period of time, it reduces overall problems in your business and can actually reduce your employee turnover: "When they see an employer treating their customers like gold, it delivers a sense of endowment, making them proud to be part of the team and making them more willing to stick around."
The cost of poor customer service
In 2017, Forbes shared news of a report showing that poor customer service caused $62 billion in lost business.
The report starts off with past research citing, "80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, but only 8% of customers agree.... There is a definite disconnect between the leadership in many companies and what's happening on the front line with customers."
When there’s limited competition, many businesses don’t feel the need to go above and beyond to satisfy their customers. However, as more options become available, consumers are more likely to spend their money with a company that provides them with excellent customer service.
The truth is: it’s really hard to recover after a customer has a negative interaction with your business. A survey showed that 95 percent of people talk about their negative customer service experiences, while only 87 percent make an effort to tell about positive experiences, which means news of your poor service will spread quickly. Even one misstep is too much: "...about 40% of customers said they avoid companies for two or more years after a bad experience, and tell their friends, family and colleagues to avoid it, too."
It all comes to down to the experience
There's no one customer service strategy that will increase your brand loyalty. Rather, it's a culmination of the efforts you make throughout your business—starting right there on your website—to make sure your customers are happy. Here are a few ways to build loyalty through outstanding customer support:
- Protect Their Privacy: "85 percent are loyal to brands that safeguard and protect the privacy of their personal information," according to Accenture. Meanwhile, Pew Research showed "91% of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies." Privacy is a big concern for customers as they look to choose with which companies they do business. To demonstrate your commitment to your customers and their privacy, ensure compliance with industry best practices and undergo regular audits for compliance with security standards like SOC 2 and HIPAA.
- Communicate: Respond immediately to messages and comments on social media as well as phone calls and emails. Forbes mentioned that in a study of 500 companies that were asked for a phone number and pricing information, a whopping 41 percent of companies didn't even bother to respond to that email. And 99 percent of them didn't follow up. Don't be like them.
- Offer More Ways to Connect: Make sure your contact information is readily apparent on your website and offer more than one way to contact you. An email address and phone number are just the beginning. People all have their own preferences when it comes to contacting a business, so you want to make sure you're considering those preferences. Add live chat and if your company offers an app, make sure your clients can contact you there as well. It should be easy to reach you.
- Think Ahead: Outstanding customer service starts on your website. If you know what questions people usually ask, answer them in a FAQ or a blog post. Make sure your pricing and contact information is easy to find. A chat feature makes it easy for customers to reach out without disrupting what they're doing: they can do it from their desks at work. When it's easy to find answers, they take the time to look for them rather than giving up on you.
- Don't Insult Your Clients: This should go without saying, but articles like this one point out that companies still manage to do it. True, certain customers push the limits of patience, but that's no excuse for an employee to launch a personal verbal attack. If an employee steps out of line, a sincere apology from the management can go a long way.
- Resolve Issues Quickly and Kindly: People want to be heard and understood. Take steps to correct your mistakes, and "This company is the worst!" becomes "This company did everything they could to make it right for me." That's a customer who is likely to return.
- Listen: A resolution starts by listening to what the client actually wants. It might be as simple as an apology or a discount on his or her next purchase. Don't be afraid to say, "We're sorry for our mistake. What can we do to make this right by you?"
- Every Relationship Is a Two-Way Street: A policy of "the customer is always right" can erode your company culture. Admit your mistakes and correct them, but recognize when someone is abusing the system or seeking to cause problems. Address those situations individually and maintain your integrity and mission as a company. Your loyal customers need to know you won't bend the rules to accommodate a troublemaker, and your agents need to feel supported when they’re doing the right thing.
- Deliver High-Quality Products Every Time: Consistency is key. Build a product you believe in and back it up with a guarantee. When a customer receives the product she wants in a timely manner, and it works the way you say it does, you start with a satisfied customer--which makes your job of customer service that much easier.
When you have a great product and your customers feel like they can trust you to help them when they need you, they will stay loyal to your brand. That loyalty rewards you over and over again with repeat customers, word-of-mouth advertising, and the satisfaction of knowing you're serving people's needs as you grow your company.
To see how these tips fit with current and upcoming trends, check out these 6 predictions for customer support in 2018.