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Guest Blog: How to Keep your Customers Loyal Beyond 2016

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post my colleague, Paul Johns writes about how much the customer has changed and the importance of empathy and being human are to customer loyalty. Employees must understand the human side of customer service in order to promote loyalty. – Shep Hyken If  you are looking […]

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post my colleague, Paul Johns writes about how much the customer has changed and the importance of empathy and being human are to customer loyalty. Employees must understand the human side of customer service in order to promote loyalty. – Shep Hyken

ResReader.ashxIf  you are looking for advice about ‘what to expect in 2016’ or ‘the top trends in 2016,’ you’ve clicked on the wrong article. Constant advancements in technology has conditioned us to think in much shorter cycles, focusing on the short game for retention, loyalty and service. If we consider the human condition and what drives all of us as consumers, I think clearer solutions present themselves not only for 2016, but well beyond into the fullness of the Age of Convenience.

The loyal customer known in ‘days of old’ is almost completely obsolete. Finding the same brand loyalty of even 15 years ago, is almost the same as discovering an Atari console. Resist the urge to tilt your head and say aloud, “they still make you?” The reason is simple, your customers’ browser is their infinitely stocked, price comparison, mega digital shopping center. Shoppers have never been so educated, savvy and ready to steal a deal. Decision points have shifted and brands are competing on a new frontier – customer experience and relation efficiency.

The bar of expectation for mobile-minded customers is consistently being raised by the ever evolving technology that accommodates their desire for speed and ease. Anything less than instantaneous answers and connection feels like a lifetime to our generation of multi-tasking, multi-screened consumers.

Speed and efficiency aren’t the only game changers for customer loyalty. Consumers are more and more likely to view customer service as a “true test” of how much a brand values them. So is this service with a smile? Or give me what I need already? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Last year, Micah Solomon published an article in Forbes which really resonated with me then. Ever thought about how the Jetsons got customer service right? Check out excerpt from Micah:

“This is a solid model for dividing your operations. If someone can do the job more efficiently or effectively than a machine can, then a human should be doing it (cardiac surgery and watercolor painting both fall in this category). And if a person can do the job more warmly than a machine, assign that task as well to the warm-blooded. Otherwise, leave it to the machines.” — Micah Solomon, Forbes

What Micah is eluding to is a smarter humanity. The digital customer service revolution has made one mistake – over engineering and dehumanizing service engagements. Self-service is a beautiful thing and there are plenty of stats supporting your customers’ desire to serve themselves, but if you make it completely impossible to have a shred of humanity in your customer relationships, you’re doomed.

5 Ways to Beat the Epidemic of Disloyalty 

Here are a few tips I believe will make a difference in the loyalty of your customer base, not only in 2016 but for good.

1. Humanize your brand engagements 

I must have uttered term “Humanity at Scale” no less than fifty times over the past two months. When your customers reach out to you for help, they want to talk to a person who can help them, not a robot, not an automated list, but a real live person, who speaks their language, empathizes with them and even has a personality. Technology is what needs to be in place to make this humanity scalable. If your social customer care solution is promoting canned responses, automation or unable to filter through social noise properly –  you’re doing it wrong.

2. Kill the Script 

Ever had a mindless conversation with a service agent where you could practically hear the script’s pages flipping in the background? I bet it wasn’t the highlight of your day. The reality is that your agents will face many repetitive issues that require the same response. However, when faced with a more complex issue or a situation requiring a more delicate touch, your agents need to put down that script and become fellow human beings. Help your customers find the answers they need like a trusted friend, not a heartless automaton void of logic or compassion.

3. Mature social media customer interactions

If you didn’t chuckle at this headline, then go ahead and let it out now. I know. Social has a reputation for being the channel that your customers spill their gut wrenching kvetching sessions or brands propose disproportionately generous solutions in order to save face in the social/viral sphere. Well it’s time to grow up. Your customers have, and social channels have as well.

With new products such as Facebook Messenger for Business, your customer conversations on social are becoming more intimate, personalized and meaningful. Instead of public berating and constant crisis aversion, your can communicate with your customers on a channel that is reserved for the most meaningful connections in their lives.

Watch Messenger in Action

4. Don’t break the thread 

If you do not have a properly organized, perfectly engineered CRM that integrates all customer engagements into one thread, you are showing up to every conversation clueless and ill-equipped to solve your customers’ issues. Loyalty grows from trust. Build trust by remembering who your customers are and putting their queries immediately into context for faster resolution and less friction in every engagement.

5. Proactive service 

One of my favorite use cases for a brand using social media for pro-active customer service is Audi. When a future customer on Twitter expressed their desire to purchase a new car, Audi immediately responded, gave outstanding service and managed to sell a car through proactive engagement on Twitter.

Instagram is one of the best channels to provide proactive customer service. Follow your audience’s hashtags like fluffy little breadcrumbs leading you to your new audience, bigger opportunities and a chance to give your brand a real personality. Not only can it bring sales, but it will lift your brand identity in the eyes of your audience and humanize your engagements.

Humanity at scale is new standard of social customer service. Your customers can smell a fake a mile away and are exhausted by dealing with automation that misses the mark. Make this year and every year hereafter a year of empathy and resolution for your valued customers.

Paul Johns is the CMO of Conversocial. He has served as CMO for a variety of young technology startups, bringing them public by defining company strategy and developing advocacy, as well as growing each business through product development, channel marketing, partnerships and acquisitions.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article:

Walt Disney’s Wisdom: 10 Customer Service Lessons

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