Providing excellent customer service and building customer loyalty go hand in hand. If you want to build customer loyalty, you need to first optimize the customer experience. By resolving problems efficiently and effectively, you establish rapport and build trust with your customers, keeping them coming back to your business.

To learn more about building customer loyalty, we spoke with customer service expert Shep Hyken about industry best practices.

Read an excerpt from the interview below or click here to download the full interview.

InsightSquared: At the beginning of a relationship with a customer, what should service teams do to start building customer loyalty right off the bat?

Shep Hyken: In addition to doing all of the normal managing of touch points and making sure that each interaction you have is a positive interaction, customer service teams can focus on the concept of customer success. This means not just helping the customer get what they want right now, but helping them so that in the future, they may learn something that would avoid them having to call and get a support call. Customer success is proactive customer service.

One negative experience could ruin an otherwise flawless relationship.

If you can incorporate the two of them into the same interaction, then you’re helping to ensure success. Some companies today are actually – in their marketing materials – showing a video like, “Look how easy this is to use our product.” It serves as a marketing piece because it does show how easy it is, but it also teaches the customer how to use the product before they even buy the product. And then when they get the product, if they can’t figure it out, they go back to the video that helped make them want to buy the product. So it’s really cool – it’s a service concept, it’s a marketing concept, and it’s a success concept all rolled into one.

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Regarding first and last impressions – Does one matter more than another for building customer loyalty? Or are they both equally important?

Well, they’re both part of the journey map, and I think they’re equally important – start strong, end strong. Why start off weak? Why set the tone for anything less than a positive interaction? That first impression sets the tone for whatever is to follow, so don’t start off negative.

How can customer service managers justify the costs and effort it takes to provide excellent customer service?

Just the other day, I heard a CMO at a big online retail company say, “Our loyal customers are worth three times more than our regular, average customers.” It went over almost everybody’s head till it was brought up later on.

Now, you’ve got to define what “loyalty” means. In a restaurant, loyalty means coming back on a semi-regular basis, whether it be once a week or once every couple of weeks. I consider that to be loyalty, opposed to going to that particular restaurant every time they need something to eat – that’s just not reasonable. But take another business for example. If every time I need a particular product, I don’t go anywhere else besides the one company that always gives me the best service, good pricing, good value, etc., that’s loyalty.

Everybody has to define loyalty differently. But if you can determine what a loyal customer is worth versus what a satisfied customer is worth, then there will be a lot more effort towards building customer loyalty.

Everybody has to define loyalty differently.

What’s the key to building customer loyalty?

Consistency and predictability. Let’s assume that the product that you sell does what it’s supposed to do and the people that deliver it and the level of service they give, is a good service, as soon as it’s become predictable and it’s consistent and it’s just a little above average, and again, it’s got to be a little above average all the time, then you have the chance at creating loyalty.

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What are the killers of customer loyalty?

Lack of training and attitudes. A leader has to define what customer service is in the company. And if they don’t do an effective job of clearly defining it, the employees won’t know what it is that they’re supposed to do.

The recognition for the service that they deliver is very important. You’ve got to make sure that they’re recognized.

When a manager basically says, “Do what I say, not what I do,” they’re incongruent. They’re mean and they verbally abuse their employees and then they tell them to go out and be nice, then that’s extreme. But can you imagine? That’s done. Where a manager sits there and tells somebody they’re doing the lousiest job in the world, now go out and be nice. I think those are killers.

You want to create an engaged workforce that feels fulfilled and exploits each employee for whatever unique talent they have. If they’re really good at something and you can give somebody that as part of their job, they’ll perform better.

You want to create an engaged workforce that feels fulfilled and exploits each employee for whatever unique talent they have.

We know for a fact, based on research from many different organizations and companies, that if somebody is really good at something and they’re just allowed to do 10% of it in their job, they’re far more fulfilled than if they’re doing a job that doesn’t exploit their unique talents. So get them fulfilled, exploit them for their unique talents and motivate them to be excited about what’s coming up for the company.

Want more insights from Shep? Download our full interview here: The Keys to Customer Service Excellence with Shep Hyken.


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