Social media platforms are buzzing with conversations and speculation about creating customer loyalty. It is not a new idea. Most people in businesses have discussed customer loyalty at some point. What is different today is that the conversation is occurring on a different platform. In addition, some people think the dynamics of customer loyalty have changed. What people have “discovered” is that loyalty results from customers having great interactions and experiences with businesses and brands. The question of the hour is, “Do you provide the customer experiences that build loyalty?”
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with the question, or with the need for firms to ask it of themselves from time to time. Everyone knows it costs far more to win a new customer than it does to keep a customer. At some point, the number was three: it cost three times more to win a new customer than to keep a current customer. The number six has entered the conversation recently. If six is the correct number (and the cost differential is not six times, instead of three), customer loyalty becomes more important for businesses.
A Forrester report claimed in 2012 that consumers “reward” brands that “make them feel special.” Further, according to the report, consumers are willing to pay more for that special service. There should be no surprise in the report that American Express delivers a better customer experience (making customers feel special) than MasterCard, or that the experience justifies a price 18 percent higher. This is not a new and earth-shattering discovery for most business owners and leaders. What is different is the interpretation of the data almost entirely in terms of the customer experience on social media platforms with various firms.
Social media platforms do not provide any firm’s entire engagement with customers (B2B or B2C). Even firms that only sell online have other ways of providing powerful customer experiences (websites, email, etc.). To date, in fact, the marketing power of social media platforms has yet to deliver. Therefore, it seems counter-intuitive to put all of one’s marketing eggs in the proverbial social media basket. Yet the near-ubiquity of social media platforms makes them risky to ignore.
So, what is a firm to do? The sanest approach might be to test social media platforms while continuing to provide traditional and powerful customer experiences to build loyalty. Do your marketing and your customer relationship management across several channels (as you have always done). In whatever venue you choose to engage customers, you need to provide basic types of experiences in order to build loyalty. Customer experiences that build loyalty will typically include:
- Distinguishing your business clearly in today’s fiercely competitive markets
- Building emotional connections with your firm and with your products or services
- Encouraging word-of-mouth and brand ambassador development and activity
- Developing customer loyalty programs
- Saying thank-you often
- Providing loyalty rewards to repeat customers
- Learning more about your customers and responding to their needs and desires
Markets are changing today in a variety of ways. Customers of both B2B and B2C firms have some new expectations of the brands and companies with whom they do business. Find out what their expectations are, and deliver on them.
You know the importance of loyal customers. You know how to say thank-you. You know how to incentivize customers to become repeat customers. You know the value of peer-to-peer recommendations of your products and/or services.
When was your last company meeting to discuss customer experience and customer loyalty? Maybe it is time for another meeting. Do you provide the kind of customer experiences that build loyalty? Are you providing the right kind of experiences, in the right venues, and delivering on the right customer expectations? After all, even B2B customers are people.