Sales managers take note: when it comes to the sales experience, customers aren’t comparing you to your competition alone. They’re holding you up against the most outstanding service they’ve received anywhere. Whether they get wowed at a bank, a restaurant, or by a cell phone service provider, customers set their expectations by these pockets of excellence and will judge their experience with you by them.
“Figuring out how to attract and retain loyal customers is no simple task,” acknowledge Chip Bell, senior partner of The Chip Bell Group, and John Patterson, president of Atlanta-based Progressive Insights. “However, there are five loyalty drivers that fit most customers most of the time.” Here’s a look at each of those five:
1. Include me. When you include customers in the sales and service experience, loyalty soars. “Help your customers feel like partners,” say Bell and Patterson. They cite the retailer Build-a-Bear Workshop by way of example. At Build-a-Bear, customers don’t simply choose a product, they make it. They stuff, sew, clean, dress, and create a birth certificate for the animal of their choice. Thus, the final result is not simply another stuffed animal – it’s a creature of his or her own creation. By including the customer in the sales experience, Build-a-Bear Workshop has grown to more than 200 stores worldwide in less than a decade.
2. Protect me. Customers expect the basics. Just as customers take it for granted they’ll have enough air to breathe, they assume your product is quality they can trust at a fair price with a painless buying experience. As Bell and Patterson point out, “If the plane lands in the right city, we do not cheer. But if it lands in the wrong city, we’re upset.” Get the basics right every time and you’ll build a solid foundation of loyal supporters.
3. Understand me. “Great service providers are great listeners,” say Bell and Patterson. “They know that unearthing the essence of a problem will point to a solution that goes beyond the superficial transaction.” Make every customer contact person in your company a scout. Put a system in place that enables them to gather and capture customer intelligence so you can see trends, spot problems, and get early warning about concerns.
4. Surprise me. Remember opening a box of Cracker Jacks when you were a kid? You were probably more excited about the prize inside than the popcorn itself. Think about your own product or service – what can you do to create your own “free prize inside?” In other words, what can you do to wow your customers with something unexpected? These unforeseen moments of “wow” create lifelong customers who will tell others about their great experience with your organization.
5. Inspire me. When your sales reps exhibit the highest qualities of character, customers get inspired, and become loyal to your company. These qualities include taking pride in their work, putting the needs of the customer ahead of their own need to reach quota, and acting at all times in a manner that is fair, honest, and ethical. Customers respect and admire people and companies who exhibit these traits, and they will keep coming back for more.