As customer experience continues to grow in importance for businesses across all industries, we’re starting to see an emphasis placed on engaging existing customers to generate repeat business. But the companies who are really succeeding in customer experience are also leveraging another important element: turning existing customers into promoters and evangelists to increase referrals and generate new customers.
While repeat business is a great indicator that you’re doing something right, consider the implications of getting your customers to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about your company and products or services. It’s free marketing! And even better than free, word-of-mouth social proof and testimonials are more effective than your typical marketing and advertising methods will ever be.
So how do you reach the point where your customers won’t stop talking about you to other people? You need to give them the right customer service and support, and also the encouragement and methods to become true promoters, while evaluating performance and working internally in your company to continually create the experiences that lead to a greater likelihood of referrals.
Start with great customer service and engaging experiences
While some products or services are so good they speak for themselves, great customer service can be the differentiator that leaves your customers feeling positively about their experiences with your business. When consumers not only support a product or service, but a company as a whole, they are more likely to be loyalists and to make repeat purchases.
If you really want to go above and beyond in your customer experiences, to delight all who come into contact with your business, you shouldn’t only focus on after-purchase interactions. Real customer delight starts with the efforts you make towards your prospects, and continues after they actually buy from you. By ensuring that they feel great about your brand through all stages of their purchasing journey, they are more likely to have their expectations exceeded, and tell others about it.
To encourage your customers to be promoters, it’s important to keep them engaged even after a sale is made. Be ready to address and accommodate and issues or complaints, and have several open channels for communication. Especially if something goes wrong, if you can mitigate the issue quickly and effectively, you have an opportunity to impress your customer into giving you another chance or improving their perception of your company. These are the types of experiences that consumers tend to talk about with others.
You should also continue to engage your customers through remarketing, email marketing, and social media communities to ensure that you are frequently at the top of their minds. Deploying methods for continuous engagement is a long-game customer experience strategy that will pay off by ensuring you have more direct contact with your customers, and better insights about what they want and need.
Create comprehensive loyalty programs
One of the best and easiest ways to ensure your customers are engaged, appreciated, and continuing to make purchases, is by creating loyalty programs for them. While consumers who genuinely enjoy your products and brand don’t necessarily need incentives to make future purchases, loyalty programs can work to make them feel that they are getting a good value, and can make it as easy as possible for customers to make repeat purchases.
Loyalty programs can be set up in different ways, most commonly based on a point system corresponding to a monetary amount spent, by tiers, memberships, or value-based programs. In each of these cases, the programs become a way to store customer data, making it easier to create customized experiences and personalized recommendations based on previous purchases, and create dashboards where customers can view their purchase history, and save payment and shipping details.
Loyalty programs with rewards are not only successful in making customers feel appreciated so that they return to make repeat purchases, but they can also work well to encourage customers to share their experiences with people close to them.
If, for example, you offer special customer experience touches like an extra discount coupon on customer birthdays, or send them sale information about products they’ve purchased in the past and may want to buy again, they can be likely to tell their network about the added level of service that sets your brand apart. These are some of the best ways to ensure customer delight. Creating opportunities like these are what can turn your customers into promoters, while simultaneously instigating the loyalty that leads to repeat purchases.
Incentivize referrals and reviews to increase brand awareness
Word-of-mouth referrals are invaluable to any kind of company, and to motivate your customers to be willing to share their positive experiences with others, you may want to consider creating referral and review incentive programs.
Referral programs are relatively straightforward and simple, in that your existing customers are rewarded for encouraging their friends and family to also become customers or members. Companies such as Airbnb use referral incentives to spur sign-ups to their site, with users receiving an actual gift card-like coupon to use towards future accommodation bookings when new users provide a unique code that gives credit to the original member. Because there is a reward attached to it, customers may be more likely to share these details with people they know, organically growing Airbnb’s leads and customer base.
With review incentives, you can also provide discounts or specials for those customers that leave reviews on sites like TrustPilot, Yelp, Google, or Facebook. Because many consumers now look to review sites when making purchasing decisions, having a large number of positive reviews on public databases can work really well to ensure that people get a positive feeling about your brand from the larger community around them, increasing the overall trust and credibility your brand has.
Develop ambassador programs and use micro-influencers
In the age of social media, and with social proof being a major component of many consumer’s purchasing decisions, using customers as brand ambassadors and community influencers may be one of your strongest strategies for new sales.
If you find that your brand, products or services create “fans” out of your customers, use that to your advantage. When someone is passionate about your company, they may already be highly engaged with your online content or social media accounts. These types of customers may present themselves as being prime candidates for brand ambassador programs, in which they receive deals, discounts, or “swag” (like branded sweatshirts and coffee mugs) for talking about your company in public forums, or resell your products and services to others.
In general, ambassador programs can work well because customers may like feeling as though they are a part of a community. And if they enjoy your company and products or services so much that they are willing to talk about it with others, it can be a point of pride for them to be trusted and appreciated by the brand they love so much. Creating these relationships also shows potential customers that you take notice of your active customers and show them recognition.
Especially in the B2C industries, ambassador programs lend themselves well to user-generated content opportunities and micro-influencers on social media. When a customer posts about your brand or products on their social media pages, you can then re-share this user-generated content. This increases the level of engagement, which can also show appreciation and get customers excited about being featured on your page.
These brand promoters are real customers you may have who can be encouraged or incentivized to post about your company, and share their experiences with their followers. It’s a great way to target and reach smaller networks where traditional advertising may not be as effective or cheap. Because the communication is more organic than a sponsored post or advertisement, consumers inherently trust it more.
For B2B companies, brand ambassador and micro-influencer programs can work well in regards to affiliate and network marketing, where customers may receive a kick-back or discounts for making referrals to other companies. There may also be opportunities here for third-party vendors and resellers who receive discounts on products and services when they convince new companies to make a purchase, such as in the case of marketing automation software HubSpot, who uses a large network of customer partner agencies who resell the tools to their own customers. This takes some pressure off of HubSpot to generate new sales entirely in-house, and they can more easily leverage customers into becoming promoters to drive their business model.
Focus on feedback data, net promoter scores, and your employees
Obtaining customer feedback is a crucial element in understanding the performance of your company and the overall satisfaction of your customers and users. It can provide insights regarding audience targeting, improvements to be made in your products or services, and gaps in your customer support. But one key performance indicator that is necessary for understanding the likelihood of turning your customers into promoters is called the net promoter score (NPS).
Essentially, the NPS is a scale from one to ten, in which customers evaluate how likely they are to recommend your company to someone else, with one being not at all likely, and ten being extremely likely. Ideally you are creating such good customer experiences, that you are always receiving scores of nine and ten, but if not, you need to dig deeper into what the problems may be, and why you may be missing out on repeat and referral business.
But it’s not enough to just obtain this information regarding net promoter scores, you need to know how to use it. Especially for companies who rate low (six and below), you want to understand the reason so that you can take actions which will potentially remedy the situation completely in the future. When net promoter scores are high, and customers specifically reference great customer service or support experiences, you should be celebrating these wins with the staff responsible, and replicating them as much as possible.
Employees should be made part of this process, and good performance on an individual level that contributes to high NPS can work to boost internal morale. This, in turn, encourages continued levels of excellent service, as the process becomes a cycle in engaging customers who will then be more likely to recommend your company to someone else.
Great customer experience isn’t just about ensuring that your customers feel happy about a one-time purchase. It’s not even about ensuring that those customers come back to make repeat purchases, (though that of course is a major goal). The real test of excellent customer experience comes in the form of making sure your existing customers are willing to talk about you to other people, spurring referral sales, expanding your network and brand awareness, and boosting your overall credibility and public trust.
When you start with creating great customer experiences for your prospects and existing customers through their buyer’s journey, you can then find ways to emphasize customer delight through loyalty programs and referral incentives, and leverage brand ambassadors and micro-influencers to spread awareness and discover potential new customers. Make sure you are evaluating your processes, and improving your net promoter score while making great customer experience a priority of your employees, and you’ll find you can easily turn your customers into promoters.
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