“There’s a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Never settle for “satisfied”. – Shep Hyken
With so many options, distractions, and enticing offers, gaining and retaining customers is becoming an increasing challenge for most companies. This also means waning interest on the part of customers to remain loyal with a single company / brand. However, to remain successful in today’s business environment, every company requires its customer base to remain fairly stable and long-term. It is a lot easier for customers and others to share their views about a company, and social media seems to have become the preferred platform to do so. It would make sense for companies then to find ways of boosting customer loyalty via social media, and any other means possible.
The importance of gaining and boosting customer loyalty cannot be overemphasized or undermined. Loyalty comes about only when a customer would have ‘stuck’ with a company long enough and interacted with it regularly to trust it. However, as mentioned loyalty has become an ephemeral quality since customers have myriad choices, each one better than the first. In addition, companies make the mistake of moving swiftly from acquiring one customer to the next, and tend to overlook ways by which they can retain their existing customers – which they would have acquired through a great deal of effort to start with. Research shows that the cost of retaining customers is about one/fifth the cost of acquiring a new one, and by boosting customer loyalty, a company increase its profits anywhere between 25-95% – which are not figures that any company today can afford to neglect.
With the rise in technology, the importance of interactive media – especially social media – has grown exponentially. The audience has become a lot more inattentive, have lower tolerance for errors, and significantly lower patience levels – which in turn has ensured that even a single poor experience with a company would not only drive them away, but also make them writing scathing comments via social media and other online channels. This in turn, adversely affects the reputation and growth prospects of a company, making it unable to retain customers despite glorified loyalty programs.
Over the years, traditional advertising has grown to be less effective, it has also been hard to attract and keep loyal customers. The power in the customer-company relationship now lies in the hands of the customers, and it is the companies that must convey exactly what customers want, and need to hear. Giving customers what they want, when they want, and how they want holds the key to boosting customer loyalty. This trend has made companies alter their offerings, strategies, marketing plans, and communication messages to best suit the exact requirements and expectations of customers. Despite access to a number of channels of communication, an increasing number of companies are using social media for boosting customer loyalty. Social media has given audiences a way to fulfil their need of human interaction and socializing, whilst not really ever meeting or leaving the environs they find most comforting. It is a platform where people can express their feelings, opinions, and comments, while gaining social acceptance for them. This is true also for their comments about companies, their offerings, and the customer service they offer. One comment can garner support from like-minded people – the comment could be either positive or negative.
The immediacy and visibility of social media contributes to companies wanting to use it for boosting customer loyalty. It is a lot easier for companies to exhibit that they have the same values as their customers, and that they are listening to customers. Customers and prospects develop loyalty and affinity towards brands that consistently show that they listen, respond, and act on feedback provided. This social listening affords customers a sense of importance and being valued – essential components for boosting customer loyalty. The fact is customers and others will speak and share about companies irrespective of whether the company responds or not. However, ignoring comments from customers and prospects could be potentially fatal for any company.
For boosting customer loyalty via social media, as mentioned, listening is extremely critical. Companies must have teams dedicated to ‘listen’ and research comments, respond to queries, and manage any issues or complaints that customers may have. These teams would be responsible also for monitoring the types of customers who may be coming together to brainstorm and discuss online, start ‘conversations with audiences, engage them through various offers and communiqués, and other such online responsibilities. Converting non-customers to customers and satisfied ones to loyalty is a process of growth, and one that requires consistent efforts. Boosting customer loyalty starts with proactively providing value to customers based on their comments and feedback. It continues by a company’s consistent display of customer-focus by using those comments to provide personalized service and customized products.
Once a company is able to establish some kind of a relationship, it must focus on building deeper emotional connections and personal relationships with its customers. Companies that are able to forge such connections would be better equipped at boosting customer loyalty. Forging relationships is an on-going process, based on consistent, meaningful, and useful communication with customers. This communication must not only reflect solutions for the needs of the customer’s business, but must also take into account the company’s goals, and display an alignment between the company’s goals with those of the customer. For the messages and content to be relevant, they must reflect the understanding of the company of its customers – what they value, and what they deem as important.
Customers and prospects prefer companies that can keep them updated with the most current information, and show them real-time events and activities – this is possible via social media, where instant updates are possible. The possibility of conversions and boosting customer loyalty are therefore, higher via the ‘active and immediate’ platform of social media.
Boosting customer loyalty can only happen when a company would have made consistent efforts to engage with its customers – both existing and prospective. Customers judge a company’s potential based on its ability to respond to their comments, queries, and complaints in a timely and efficient manner. The expectation from customers, based on research, for a response via social media and other channels ranges from a few minutes to about 2 hours. Beyond these timeframes, customers deem a company as being inefficient, ignorant, and inconsiderate of its customers, which ultimately ruins current and prospective relationships with customers.
The most important thing is to first attract and sustain the attention of customers long enough for them to be interested in the offerings and service of a company. Once this is successfully achieved, boosting customer loyalty would be a lot easier. Companies and their representatives must remember that irrespective of the size of the business of a customer, each one must be treated with respect, shown empathy, and their concerns given due importance. When a customer feels that a company / brand genuinely cares about them and their needs, it would mark the beginning of a positive relationship, headed towards loyalty and customer affinity. Boosting customer loyalty via social media is acquiring an increasingly important role since the messages encourage personal interactions, without a focus on spends or sale. Social media allows a company to become ‘familiar’ with customers and target audience despite no face-to-face interactions, and sometimes with no need for a meeting. Is your company using social media effectively for boosting customer loyalty?