Key to any sustainable success for a company is getting customers to come back and feel a sense of loyalty to a brand. Research has shown that customer loyalty scores can be directly related to bottom line success. Forrester research found that it takes 5 times more money to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one, and that doesn’t even begin to take into account the value of a loyal and actively engaged customer spreading the message of your brand. Reducing customer churn by just 5% can increase profits from 25-125%. In fact Gartner found that 80% of an average companies revenue will come from just 20% of existing customers. The data is clear that many of those 20% are your truly engaged customers so even a small change in the number of those promoters causes a noticeable change in revenue. While most companies focus enormous amounts of money and energy on acquiring new customers, the real ROI is in focusing even more resources on keeping current customers happy and engaged. These engaged customers return to purchase new products but also act as brand ambassadors in person, on forums and to their friends on social media. One of the primary keys to building these loyal fans is engagement.
A relationship requires communication
Your customers need to feel like you listen to them instead of being some monolith that can’t possibly take 30 seconds to answer one of their questions on your Facebook page. All questions on social media should be answered as if they were emailed to you. Those people who are connected to you socially are likely your current customers. The same is true of forums, take time to be active on industry significant forums engaging and helping people with any issues they have, even if it’s not totally specific to your product. Another important part is simply the act of listening, social media is customer service and learning the customers needs and frustrations. Unfortunately, some brands get so large that their small teams can no longer keep up and so few personal connections are formed. If you want legions of brand ambassadors it’s necessary to invest in the people who can develop some level of personal relationship with them. Customers must be acknowledged and know you care about them.
End robotic customer service
Let’s face it, it can be very hard to love a brand if you have a bad customer service experience. While helping customers is context for most businesses, it still is one of those things that if done really well or really poorly can damage the brand and cause a current customer to think twice. Nothing says you are just another customer to us than a standard reply email lacking personality. While many tech companies have embraced a more human approach, most larger brands are still using a more rigid structure with agents that are so restricted by rules and guidelines that it seems a personal connection is just out of reach. Just like social media is best to show your company as human, your customer service should also be an extension of your personality and voice as a corporation.
There are multiple ways to measure engagement but two of the most popular are through social media metrics and through a Net Promoter Score. This score uses the “How likely are you to recommend XXXX” to properly track how engaged and loyal people are. Each person sent an email survey is ranked from being a detractor (0-6), passively satisfied 7 or 8 and promoters which are 9 or 10. Research by Harvard Business Review found a striking correlation between the number of promoters and the growth rate of the company. Having an increasing number of detractors can also lead to a hard fall from grace, by 2002 AOL had 42% of survey respondents in the detractor category, indicating they were failing to lock people in for the long term. You may not always be able to turn a detractor into a loyal brand ambassador but you should at least keep your promoters happy, since they are at least 3 times more likely to buy from you again. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram also provide analytics to see what people are really into. The number of likes on your Facebook page isn’t particularly meaningful but the engagement on your posts is. That’s someone actually taking the time to like, comment or share and connect with you. You can encourage the conversation by asking questions in each post and taking the time to respond or like all comments.
Engage the negative
Sometimes you’ll get folks who are unhappy and they will let it be known publicly. They are likely very frustrated and should be given your generous attention. In many cases these people don’t expect anything to happen, certainly not over social media. A sudden generous solution with ample empathy can switch them to the promoter column. People have baseline expectations for an experience and when you greatly exceed them you push them into the brand ambassador column.
Fine tune and personalize
The engagement numbers and comments on every social media post are telling you something important: Whether people are actually interested in what you are saying. These numbers should be used to fine tune your messaging and voice so that you can better connect with your customers with content they find engaging. Use of a CRM will allow every person who communicates with a customer to easily understand what products they have purchased and the problems they have already faced in the past. Use of email automation and segmented lists will also allow you to further deliver more relevant products and messaging that are likely to increase engagement and make a customer feel more loyal to you.
Reward loyal brand ambassadors with appreciation and the opportunity to participate in some internal discussions. These outside voices are key to making the right decisions and they have their ears to the ground in the communities that are key to your growth.