Attracting new customers takes time and money. And possibly blood, sweat and tears, too. Why else would the marketing automation business have grown to over $3 billion dollars last year?
Many, however, work tirelessly to get those customers, yet forget about keeping them delighted after the deal is done, purchase is made or stay is complete. A first date may not lead to a second or third without a sprinkle of stardust on our heads.
So why not sprinkle a handful?
For many years, businesses and brands have used customer satisfaction as the sole barometer to measure brand happiness. But I’d argue that it’s only the first phase in your dating relationship.
If you really want to have and hold that customer, from this day forward, you’ve got to get on your knees, buy a nice ring and propose. Yep, that’s right. It’s time to engage. (And this new study by Deloitte corroborates).
Here are some ideas on how to engage your customers.
Part One of this series provides detail on Steps 1 – 3 (Know yourself, Don’t try to be somebody you’re not, Create vows with real meaning). Below are steps 4-9 to keep you in the groove.
Step 4. Get your customers to use it (or they might cut loose)
My son often accuses me of being an outdoor addict and he’s probably right. But I’m equally as hooked on exercise to give me a natural high. If that’s the case, why did FitBit fail to hook me on their fitness tracker?
At first, I liked glancing at my step tally and receiving congratulatory messages for work well done. Then after shoulder surgery and other related issues, I realized I needed a watch that told me to slow down and stay seated instead of urging me to move.
More importantly, the heart rate and GPS functionality weren’t completely accurate, so I still had to use my phone’s Strava app for measure. It didn’t help that the watch completely dropped dead a year I after started wearing it. (I must have worn the poor thing out).
Despite my experience, the Fitbit, fitness apps and similar products are great motivators. In fact, the wearables market is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2019! Messages and reminders are a meaningful way to engage consumers and get them exercising or counting calories. Better yet, sticky products like these may help consumers feel better and live healthier lives.
Using an iWatch or phone, the Livongo for Diabetes platform reminds diabetics to measure their blood sugar levels and offers a team of professionals to coach patients when those levels are outside of the normal range. Chronic diseases cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion, so engaging consumers not only impacts consumer health, but could reduce costs, too, a win-win for companies and their customers.
If you want to hold onto customers, get your them to fall in love with your products by using them. A lot! The more they’re hooked, the harder it is to let go.
Step 5. Make life easy for your customers
Ever used a product that was so hard to figure out you gave up in futility? I used to have one of those fancy coffee makers. I tried more than once to make cappuccinos and lattes (and I had a legs’ up because I worked at the corporate headquarters of Starbucks years ago). But every time I tried to produce a lovely steaming beverage, I ended up with a cold coffee mess instead. I finally gave up and sold the darn thing on eBay.
How can you make your products easier to use?
I was a loyal Microsoft user for years. In fact, my ex-husband spent the better portion of our marriage trying to coax me to the other side. And finally, just before our divorce, I bought my first MacBook Air. It was love at first sight (and a very amicable split). There was a brief learning curve, but I’m now hooked on the intuitive format of Apple products. And that also includes my iPhone (and iPad that I don’t yet have but really want). Simple and intuitive won me over, and I’m never going back to the dark side.
Like Apple, I am fiercely loyal to Nook, Speedplay bike petals and my Bodum coffee press. They all have one thing in common: easy to understand and use. They lighten my reading load, keep me safe on the bike trails and make my mornings a tasty pleasure.
In a world that’s complex and crazy, making it simple can engage your customers to hang on for dear life. Who needs a complicated relationship anyway?
Step 6. Ask customers what they want
One of my favorite scenes in Father of the Bride is when Bryan gives Annie a blender for a wedding gift. She cries profusely and claims they’re breaking up since a kitchen product said stay-at-home-and-give-up-your-career to her.
The movie reminds me of an old boyfriend who once gave me a George Strait Christmas CD for my birthday. Nothing against George Straight or Christmas music, but as any December baby knows, we Sagittarians don’t want Christmas gifts for our birthday!
Knowing what your customers want helps nurture a more compatible and loving relationship.
If you don’t know how to shape an experience, design a product or train consumers on how to use a new technology, ask for their input. Even if the customer is B2B2C.
I worked with HTC back in the early days when they had no distribution in the U.S. This company was the first to launch touch smartphones (even before Apple). One of our early secrets to success was asking consumers what product attributes they wanted and what potential barriers stood in the way of product adoption. I personally facilitated focus groups around the country to collect feedback used for product development and sales/marketing efforts.
We knew that touch technology was new to customers, a situation that might cause frustration and result in product returns. So HTC invested millions in training carrier reps (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) on how to use their smartphones. So if/when consumers had questions, a sea of salespeople was waiting to answer them. The strategy was successful in expanding growth and distribution – fast.
Are you collecting feedback from your customers and prospects? It’s an easy and affordable way to promote adoption, avoid potential flops and win their hearts.
Step 7: Spark joy (so your customers hang on)
I just read a great book by Marie Kondo called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. No, the book is not about the magic of a Dyson vacuum cleaner or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser that miraculous clears away marks on walls, scuffs on floors and even dried-out refrigerator spills. Rather, Kondo provides a rationale for removing the clutter from your home – so that you only hold onto the things that spark joy in your life.
It has taken me a month to declutter my closet, drawers and boxes of clothes; and I found the exercise to be cathartic and enlightening. When it comes to clothes joy, I have to say that Lululemon comes out on top.
My Lululemon collection came at a high cost, but everything I own has lasted for years. The fabrics are smooth and silky, the waste lines don’t hug my belly and the cuts compliment my figure. I feel special – and comfortable – when I wear these workout clothes. And given that I work from home, comfort is queen.
As you design and deliver products and services, do you do so with the mindset of sparking joy for your customers? If not, maybe you should ask their opinions (see step 6). Or think creatively about new ways to spark new life into the old way of doing things, like these 29 insanely efficient products.
Step 8: Don’t double time your partner (or customers)
I used to fly United and American loyally, and even achieved United Premiere status at one point. Now these airlines nickel and dime me for more legroom, checking a bag and even bringing a carry-on into the main cabin. By the time I have actually flown the friendly skies, I seem to pay 50% more than the published price of the ticket.
I have had equally frustrating experiences with Expedia and Amazon.
I used to love Expedia for all my travel needs. But now they hide or change fees as you move through the booking process. For example, they publish hotel prices that change at check-out. If you aren’t careful, you’ll sign up for more than you bargained. They also publish low rental rates for cars located 20 miles from the airport. If you don’t look closely at a company’s location, you might end up with a hefty cab fare and extra hassle.
Amazon has built an empire on prime memberships and 2-day free shipping, but when’s the last time you actually received an order within that 2-day timeframe? Though the delays are typically dependent on the supplier, I just ordered a bestselling book that has taken one week to arrive. So look closely at that delivery data at checkout. And don’t be surprised when there are delays despite what they tell you.
Don’t get greedy when you when you smell the sweet aroma of success. There’s a reason customers fell in love with your brand, so stay true to that promise. Wandering eyes could be problematic!
Step 9: If the relationship isn’t working, break up.
Sometimes, relationships aren’t meant to be. You tear your ACL, gain (or lose) some weight or tastes simply change for unexplained reasons. In the professional services industry, you may wish to change providers for fresh ideas and a new point of view.
Earlier in the year, I read Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek. One premise he advocates is Pareto’s Law: 80% of the output results from 20% of the input. Or in his words, 80% of the profits come from 20% of the products and customers. If you find that 20% of your revenues is derived from customers who are a thorn in your side, then say adios. The agony of time and effort is not worth the revenues. Say your good-byes in a pleasant way and move on to greener pastures.
Good-byes are a two-way street. If a customer wants to leave you, then let them off the hook with a friendly good-bye, thanking them for the relationship while it lasted. For example, some old farts like me don’t want to sift through mounds of winks to find that soul mate at the bottom of the virtual pile. In this case, Match.com should take a tip from Ferris and let that customer go. After cancelling my subscription and changing account settings, I kept getting emails (and lots of them). Finally, through a Google search, I found the fine print with instructions of ridding this dating monster from my inbox once and for all. (I’ve heard that Facebook can be equally as stubborn).
If you need to divorce a customer (or a customer wants to ditch you), do so with grace and dignity. You’ll be better friends in the end.