I've now been doing this customer service stuff for almost 20 years - and I still love it. That's because I'm convinced it's worthwhile (getting it right can make a big difference to business results), and I'm forever intrigued by it because it's continually changing (customers and competitors are continually changing so keeping up, and ideally staying ahead, is a constant challenge).
I'm convinced that to stay on top of the subject you need to commit to continual learning. One of the things I've learned over the years is that it's far too easy to make it complicated when the keys to success are really simple. I therefore thought I'd have a go at writing something uncomplicated about what I think really matters if you want to make your approach to customer service make a worthwhile difference to customer loyalty and business results.
I started by considering this question.
"Are there a few, simple things that if you get them right will help you substantially boost customer loyalty?"
The more I thought about this the more I was drawn to the conclusion that there are just three key elements, and they can be easily remembered by the letters REM. In other contexts REM is the name of a world famous rock band, or the name for something that happens when we are dreaming - Rapid Eye Movement. But in the context of a loyalty building customer service experience I think it refers to Reliable, Effortless and Memorable. I'm convinced that if you can make the experience of doing business with you match all three elements, you should then be able to create ever-lasting customer loyalty. So what do these three words represent in detail?
Trust is the vital element in all relationships. (I learned this simple but powerful truth from Dr Stephen Covey.) This applies to both person-to-person and person-to-business relationships. To earn trust we must demonstrate trustworthiness, and being reliable is a key to being perceived as trustworthy. That's why it's so important, and why I've made it the first of the three elements. Without this, the other two will have little or no impact.
To be viewed as reliable, I suggest you think about the following -
So being reliable, and therefore trustworthy, is the first key step to customer loyalty. Yet it surprisingly seems to present a major challenge to some organisations who regularly let customers down with faulty products or services and/or broken promises. I generally find that these also tend to be the organisations that experience high customer churn rates and/or the need to always be the lowest cost supplier to win business. So if you don't want to be in that category too, make sure you are reliable.
Having built a reputation for reliability, the next thing to consider is how easy (or hard) you make it for customers to do business with you. Extensive research has shown that the harder you make it for customers the sooner they will look for an alternative supplier. So making it easy, and ideally effortless, is a critical element of building customer loyalty.
If you want customers to consider doing business with you as effortless, you need to think about the following -
Many organisations give little or no consideration to how easy they are to do business with. They create systems and procedures that make life easy for themselves, but difficult for customers. You could therefore make your organisation different from and better than your competitors, and build customer loyalty, if you take great care to make sure that you are easiest in you sector to business with. Ideally customers will view it as effortless.
Customer loyalty is best judged by the actions customers take in the future. Actions like returning to repurchase, or looking for ways to spend more with you, or recommending you to others. It's therefore important to understand what are the key things that will influence these future behaviours. Leading psychologists tell us that such decisions are made on the basis of past memorable experiences or anticipated future memorable experiences, with the past experiences being the most influential. So if memorable experiences are key to future decisions they must also be key to customer loyalty. That's why this third element is focussed on how memorable you are, and what for. You need to know what most sticks in the minds of customers each time they have the experience of doing business with you.
To be certain you are memorable for the right reasons, consider the following –
Memories are very powerful. A strong positive one can override many weaker negative ones; and, of course, visa versa. So knowing what memories are currently created and learning how to plant more of the right ones can make a big difference to on-going customer loyalty. (For more details on how to do this see the paper called Make it Memorable)
So that's it, three elements that my experience indicates when combined, create a powerful cocktail capable of delivering Ever-lasting Customer Loyalty. Like many things in business, they are easy to understand - but hard to do. But my experience also indicates that the results are worth the effort, so I hope you can make them work for you.
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