The leading goal of most small businesses today, is to grow their customer base. As a result, this is primarily where operational and marketing budgets are firmly focused.
Existing customers however, are often overlooked, and this is where a great opportunity may be lost.
The customers you already engage with have the potential to become enthusiastic fans. But this is by no means an automatic process. You cannot buy a fan. Fans and enthusiasts are made, they are won over, they are convinced.
Let me give you a personal example. My 4 year old son received a Lego action set and almost immediately lost the tiny mask from one of the characters. He was very upset and so we emailed Lego support online and asked if there was any way we could purchase this little piece to replace the one that had been lost. We got an immediate response from Lego saying that they were posting us the lost piece from Denmark and we could expect it in the post in the next few weeks! We were delighted and impressed! We thought it was a wonderful gesture and we told everyone we knew what Lego had done for us. My four year old went as far as telling the children at his pre-school where Denmark was and that his Lego was flying all the way from there to Africa! We were already Lego customers but Lego’s extraordinary customer service converted us into genuine fans of the brand.
Every point at which you engage with your customer, is an opportunity to impress and win brand fans – and there are a number of reasons why brand fans are important assets to have.
Brand fans tend to spend more than the average customer, their orders are larger and carry a higher ticket price. Fans also stay with you through the good times and the bad because loyalty is much higher amongst these enthusiastic followers, they are not incredibly price concious and will not drop you for the latest, cheapest option.
Brand ambassadors want to promote your brand. These are the customers that will share their love for you and your product with others and research shows, word-of-mouth promotion is one of the most effective and trusted forms of marketing.
So how can you start today engaging with your customers and ensuring that some of these customers become loyal fans for the future?
• UPOD – ‘Under Promise, Over Deliver’. It has been proven that customers are delighted by those things they don’t expect. You can set your basic service delivery terms which will satisfy your customer but then make an effort to exceed these expectations wherever you can.
• Listen to your customer and respond with empathy. As human beings, we value recognition and being heard. Make a point of really listening to what your customers have to say and respond to them personally when possible.
• Keep Calm and Carry On. Customers can become irate and sometimes even abusive. Keep your cool at all times, no matter what. Some of your harshest critics can eventually become brand ambassadors if you handle the situation with grace and integrity. If you or your company have made a mistake, be honest and forthcoming, do whatever you can to correct situation. Yuppiechef, an online retail store has done this very well in the past – read this blog post describing a mistake the company made and how they dealt with it.
• Do Something Different. Surprise your customers, give them something to talk about. My husband has been a member of the online gaming site BigFish for some time. On the first year anniversary of his sign-up, the company sent him a plush toy to say thank you. You might not think that a fully-grown, thirty year old man would be amused and delighted by a furry green fish – but he was! It was the thoughtfulness and effort that was appreciated and needless to say, BigFish earned a great deal of loyalty points for that.
• Be Enthusiastic! Unless you’re selling funeral policies, in which case it may not be appropriate, customers really want to see your enthusiasm for what you’re offering. It’s hard to expect customers to be excited about your brand if you can’t be. Employ people who can share your enthusiasm with your customers and foster a culture of appreciation and anticipation.
Think of other ways you can engage and delight your customers, there are many ideas that could work for you and your business. Just remember – the goal is simply to foster a great relationship with as many customers as possible. It will take time, attention and effort but the personal investment is well worth it.
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