A: Today, there are many alternative places to shop for goods and services. And there is much we don't understand about the nature of the value exchange between our business and its customers. Because different people value different things, we constantly work to understand what it takes to win each customer's business.
However, there are some things we do know. We know that it costs 8 to 10 times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep a current customer. We know the average business loses 10% to 30% of their customers every year. The reason for this is customer satisfaction does not equal customer loyalty; of customers who defect, 80% are actually satisfied with the company's service. So, how does a business build customer loyalty?
Keeping the buying experience attractive can make all the difference
Using what you know about customers and practicing the “law of attraction,” to appeal to both conscious and unconscious desires, is a good place to begin in making your business fresher and more appealing.
Customers are human. Every customer interaction is inherently unpredictable. Yet, every business needs to create a true dialog with its customer. As the customer relationship evolves over a series of interactions, the customer leaves many clues to guide the business in providing truly differentiated and personal attention.
In the business world, we don't speak much about the heart. Yet, our unique business purpose should come from the heart---since all businesses are ultimately people serving people. People need connection, belonging and meaningful contribution. Long after the product or service has been delivered, the feelings gained through the business interaction remain for the customer.
The "moment-in-time" of every customer interaction is made up of three things: the experience, the customer and the customer's reaction to the experience.
In the experience, the business owner orchestrates a message of what is most important to the customer's heart and mind. Coming from the heart makes sense in life and in business. By creating attractive customer experiences, you are providing opportunities for a bonding response from the customer.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s new business bestseller, “blink” (Little, Brown), he provides some examples of how companies manipulate first impressions to appeal to the customer. Here is one:
Putting ice cream in a round, as opposed to a rectangular, container allows the company to charge more for the same product. We are willing to pay more for ice cream when it tastes better, and putting ice cream in a round container convinces us it tastes better….even though we are not conscious of our positive react to the round container.
Customers know unconsciously what a good product is; like good jam is Knott’s Berry Farm. But if they are asked stipulate why they think that, they come up with plausible-sounding reason for why they might like or dislike something, and then adjust their true preference to be in line with that plausible-sounding reason. That is because our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room.
Gone are the days of the geographically captive customer when merchants and service providers had the advantage of being the only place within driving distance. Today, even in cyberspace, the velvet-glove treatment is what your customers expect...or...they will shop elsewhere. Many companies today are shifting their resources to spend more devoted to creating a great customer experience.
In the 1980s, I had occasion to fly to Sweden a number of times on business and always selected one airline. Jan Carlzon, who was head of the Scandinavian Air System (SAS) in the 1980's, said "Each business experiences daily moments of truth...those brief moments that occur whenever a customer comes into contact with any aspect of the company and has an opportunity to form an impression." Carlzon's approach was exceptional customer service achieved by empowering the front line staff of SAS. The treatment I personally received from the SAS staff made me a loyal customer.
People categorize by brand. Your brand name needs to be within the top three of the category when the customer is ready to buy.
People will go with what they know and trust. Your business needs to leverage its established market presence by creating customer evangelists.
Let your customer win by establishing business processes that make it easy for the customer to be loyal to your brand. Provide the customer many choices to do business with you.
Continuously improve your branded goods and services to bring customers back again and again.
John Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership (ebook at $2.99)
John G. Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership: Self Coaching Secrets (Paperback at $28.99)