Engaged and loyal customers the Holy Grail or something much more realistic?
I believe customer expectations influence the level of satisfaction that is derived when interacting with a brand. The Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference in London (Wednesday 10 June) where this and a number of other factors impacting loyalty and engagement were discussed and I wanted to offer some further opinions on this wider subject.
Engaging and creating loyalty in customers is not an easy task, although arguably easier in the retail space than in some other less sexy industry sectors (Utilities anybody?). Over the last few years I become dismayed by the number of brands that have focused on loyalty programmes as the sole answer to reaching the Holy Grail of engaged and loyal customers. It was refreshing therefore to hear many global brands express their belief that loyalty is no longer the sole domain of loyalty programmes in fact many feel this has become a non-negotiable or expected element of a retail brands proposition.
Today it is about building relationships with customers and this needs planning and collaboration between across the organisation. Organisations are exploring wider and more varied strategies to drive engagement and loyalty, just look at the work jetBlue is doing in the US to get a feel for what is possible with loyalty and gamification strategies with consumers. They were recognised only this week with a “best use of gamification to enhance loyalty” award at the Loyalty Awards.
At the risk of paraphrasing something written by my colleague Kai a few weeks ago I believe there are three areas for retailers to focus upon:
- Determine who are your best customers, engage with them to understand what you have done to enable them to reach this point and what you can do to encourage them to stay there
- Identify the next generation of “best” customers based on the factors that you have identified as being critical to your existing top tier and nurture these from the first time they interact with your brand.
- Build a relationship with your customers – they are individuals, treat them as such, there is no excuse not to engage but make sure you are using the channels that your customers want you to use. They want to be able to engage and ask questions even if they are not in the process of buying anything. This last bullet leads me back nicely to the point I made the other day.
Making sure your customer leaves satisfied is not just about immediately answering the question they asked, it is about having a team that can sense what the customer really needs and expects. Your customers are individuals if your team can see the signs and react accordingly it not only helps to improve satisfaction on every interaction, it can lead to the beginning of an engaging and loyal relationship and this is the Holy Grail!
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