Capturing the loyalty of your customers is essential to growing your business, but doing so on a scale that will actually impact your bottom line can seem out of reach.
The perks, of course, are manifold. Growing a solid customer base leads to sustainable revenue and growth. Plus, by focusing on the customers you already have rather than only hunting for new ones, your customer experience investment can go further and make a greater impact.
And with the ever-widening array of choices consumers are being offered, connecting with them on a level that your competitors aren’t able to is key both to your survival and success. Acquisition is now only part of the play: Building a strong community of loyal customers will give you the greatest edge.
What is emotional loyalty, and why does it matter?
Of the many types of customer loyalty, emotional loyalty is the most powerful. It signals having reached the ultimate stage of the customer-brand relationship––the Shangri-La of mutually beneficial interactions if you will. Basically, it has the highest potential to help your brand reach new heights. See what I did there?
So, what exactly is it? Emotional loyalty, as you might have guessed from the name, comes down to customers feeling an attachment to your brand that goes beyond the situational or even habitual and becomes, well, personal. Customers aren’t choosing to shop with you because you’re the most convenient or that’s what they’ve always done, but because they feel attached to you, or rather, to how you make them feel.
Sometimes, this comes down to an experience someone had with your company that you had absolutely no hand in. Maybe their parents always used your cookware brand while they were growing up, and they have warm memories of lifting the lid off your dutch oven and tasting their dad’s famous pasta sauce every Sunday night. Come time to buy some new cookware? Dad knows best, so they choose you.
But other times, the experience you and your agents offer them in a service interaction, or a series of interactions, leads to a powerful and lasting emotional loyalty.
And this has an impact on your business. In fact, research shows that emotion is the #1 driver of loyalty. And when customers feel appreciated, they show it with their wallets––with 76% saying they’ll continue purchasing from a brand that offers a great customer experience, and 87% saying they’ll recommend you to friends and family.
These three strategies will help you harness the power of your customer experience and encourage emotional loyalty with every customer service interaction.
1. Implement knowledge-centered service (KCS)
Your agents are on the frontline of your customer experience at the most critical moments in the customer journey, so giving them the tools they need to meet and exceed customer expectations should be a no-brainer, right?
Right. And when you empower your agents with knowledge, you do just that, enabling them to turn issues into opportunities and connect with your customers. KCS also improves the day-to-day working experience of your agents. After all, no one wants to spend their time hunting through shared docs, frantically messaging coworkers, and sometimes even googling customer queries.
Establishing a dynamic knowledge base for your team is the first step to implementing KCS.
Unlike a traditional knowledge base which relies on multiple incidents of the same nature to finally prompt a support article, dynamic knowledge management makes knowledge-sharing part of the problem-solving process. This encourages agents to share valuable information with their counterparts in the moment, ensuring valuable information doesn’t get lost.
The right technology will take this to the next level, using machine learning to automatically deliver and optimize help articles, serving agents the most relevant article in real-time as well as prompting them to update articles that need it. This allows them to better help customers and dramatically improves metrics like first contact resolution.
Additionally, the internal knowledge that you gather can be repurposed into an external knowledge base that gives your customers the freedom to help themselves on their own terms through customer-facing FAQs.
Done right, KCS empowers agents to keep their knowledge fresh, useful, and updated for everyone. And once your agents are armed with the necessary knowledge, you’ll experience improved first contact resolution, a better agent experience, and more loyal and satisfied customers.
2. Center your customers with personalized customer service
Customers today want to connect with the brands they shop with in an authentic way. And if you can offer them this, creating experiences they’ll remember, rather than the transactional and impersonal ones that have become so common, you’ll be one step closer to securing lasting loyalty and getting a leg up on your competition.
To quote Seth Godin: “People do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories, and magic.” Your customers should feel like they’re at the center of your brand universe, and when you offer them personalized customer service? They will.
Just as it would be quite jarring if an old friend suddenly forgot your name or your shared history, when a customer you’ve interacted with before reaches out, making sure your agents have the technology to instantly recognize them is essential to establishing trust and building a closer relationship. Along with access to past support interactions, your agents should also have automatic access to customers’ history with your brand and any other relevant information.
If you run an ecommerce business, for example, and a customer reaches out, agents should automatically be given access to their order history, previous interactions with the brand, as well as info like shipment status and tracking number. And should the customer need to reach out again, they should automatically be connected to the agent they interacted with the last time. This builds trust and familiarity which are the cornerstones of emotional loyalty.
3. Practice proactive listening
It might sound obvious, but lending a listening ear to your customers lets them know that you care––and that matters. Gallup research shows that: “Customers form strong emotions about your company based on their experiences with your people––and those emotions strongly influence their buying decisions.”
Asking customers to share their feedback underscores your willingness to listen to what they have to say––the good, bad, and the ugly. Regardless of the tenor of the feedback that comes in, you have to address it, and, when relevant, implement it.
Staying on top of customer sentiment can be done in a few ways. Start by offering surveys that track CSAT, NPS, and CES. Giving your team access to dashboards that track sentiment and collate data is also a great way to understand what your customers are thinking. Lastly, implementing technology that will allow you to unlock actionable performance insights in real-time helps you continuously improve your service offering.
Don’t forget, it takes time for your customers to answer questionnaires and share their feedback. It’s important to recognize and reward this by offering exclusive discounts or other incentives to show you’re listening and appreciate their feedback.
Let’s wrap it up
Cultivating emotional loyalty in your customers can lead to a level of commitment that purely economic incentives can’t compete with. By implementing these three strategies, you have the potential to increase customer lifetime value, encourage positive word-of-mouth, and turn your customers into strong advocates for your brand. So, what are you waiting for?