Being Responsive To Customers Is The Secret To Loyalty

contact center rep on phone and computer

Are you being responsive to customers? If not, you are risking long-term customer loyalty.

In my book, The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share, I outline a four-step process for creating remarkable experiences. It’s called WISE—which stands for Witty, Immersive, Shareable, and Extraordinary—and it contains the ingredients needed to create memorable, loyalty-building experiences.

When you follow the WISE methodology, you’ll find that more people are going to talk about your brand to their friends, their family, and on social media. But in order for you to be WISER than your competitors, you must also be Responsive to customers who are providing all of these newfound positive mentions.

It is truly a gift when people take time out of their day to compliment a company. Marketers call it “word of mouth,” and it is the Holy Grail of marketing. But then when it happens, so many companies ignore it.

If I get offstage after a speaking engagement and someone says, “Dan, that was an amazing presentation” and I just keep walking, that would be rude, right? That’s what not being responsive to customers looks like. Yet companies ignore customers’ compliments every single day. Being Responsive is the last part of the WISER methodology.

Chris Zane, founder and CEO of Zane’s Cycles, said in 2011 that “customer service starts when the customer experience fails.” How right he is! If you want to stop people from calling customer service, make the customer experience perfect.

When customers do call, a critical moment presents itself—we can convert someone who is upset with us (because we delivered an average experience or missed their expectations) into a happy customer for life.

The first rule of thumb? Serve the customer in the channel of their choice, not the channel of your choice.

If somebody called or emailed your company with a customer service question, would you tell them to tweet instead? Of course not.

So when people tweet at companies, why do so many of them tell the customer to call or email? That doesn’t make any sense.

A customer tweets at your brand because that is their channel of choice. Chances are, they already know you have a toll-free phone number and an email address, but they chose not to use those channels (or maybe they did and didn’t get a satisfactory answer). Don’t tell them what channel you want them to use; it wouldn’t happen in other channels, and it’s not OK to do it in social media either.

Be aware that preferred channels have shifted over time, so companies must shift as well. According to Sitel Group, the telephone was the most popular channel for brand engagement as recently as 2018. But by 2020 it was in third place behind email and online chat, with social media not far behind.

Secondly, set customer expectations about when you will be available to respond and how long a response usually takes. It’s not necessary to offer 24/7 customer service if your customers aren’t using your product or service at all hours, but it is definitely necessary to communicate your availability in order to manage expectations.

Brandwatch analyzed more than 200 million online conversations and surveyed thousands of people. They found that consumers who use social media (publicly or via private direct message) in a customer service scenario “were most likely to expect an answer within minutes,” whereas most other customers said they “wanted a response within 24 hours” regardless of channel.

Finally, don’t be afraid of complaints. Customers who complain do so because they care; they genuinely want the company to know that it missed expectations, and importantly, they want to give it a chance to resolve the situation. If those customers didn’t care, and most don’t, they would simply leave for a competitor without saying a word.

Complaints are often more valuable than compliments because they tell a company how it is missing the mark in terms of customer experience. Often, complaints can identify hidden pain points or unintended barriers that once fixed can greatly improve customer satisfaction scores.

If a company is responsive to customers who have a complaint, it feeds right back into the overall perception of the brand experience:

“While customers know that mistakes can happen, they also expect companies to at least match their level of effort to resolve the problem,” according to a study by Medallia and Ipsos. “Our research reveals that when consumers believe they have put in more effort than a company to resolve an issue, they are twice as likely to tell friends, family or colleagues about the bad experience, and four times more likely to stop purchasing from the company, switch brands, or use the company less.”

In other words, word-of-mouth marketing can go both ways—positively and negatively.

“Today’s customers are quick both to penalize companies for negative experiences and to reward them for positive ones,” the report continues. “They are also well aware that their influence in the marketplace is stronger than ever and are willing to use that influence to directly affect your brand’s reputation, both for good and for ill.”

Being Responsive to customers shows them—and others—that you care. Responding to everyone, whether they are complaining, complimenting, or simply inquiring, should be a consistent business practice because that is what today’s customers expect.

“Consumers’ relationships with brands are not all that different from relationships with people. Some you genuinely care about, while others are in your life simply because you depend on them,” according to Business News Daily. “Marketers who realize this will be in a better position to retain customers and improve the perceptions of consumers who are unhappy with a brand’s service or product.”

Customers prefer to share positive experiences than negatives ones. Simply being responsive to a customer can become that positive experience.

There are countless examples of customers who start off as brand detractors because of a disappointing experience and end up as brand advocates because of a great response.

“These long-standing (sometimes emotional) ties can be good for building a strong network of brand advocates,” says Brandwatch.

To become better at being responsive to customers, make sure your company is:

  • Listening to your customers in all channels
  • Viewing complaints as opportunities to improve
  • Identifying common questions or web searches that may be barriers
  • Fixing what’s wrong with the experience to avoid future complaints

Excerpts from The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share are used with permission. Purchase your copy of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever books are sold. Image by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay.