It seems intuitive doesn’t it? The happier your customers are, the better it is for business. Though a simple idea to grasp, there are many ways your business can approach achieving this—some better than others.
The first step to gain customers who feel satisfied and valued by your business? Think beyond the short term. Gaining a customer’s loyalty is a long-term growth strategy, and it requires that you be in the right mindset about developing long-lasting, personalized relationships.
Customers aren’t the people who you want business from; they’re the people who you do business with.
In this post, we’ll give you a step-by-step walkthrough of:
- The Who: Who exactly are happy customers?
- The Why: Why are happy customers key to a successful business?
- The 3 Hows: How to create and keep meaningful relationships with your customers.
- The What Now: So you’ve taken the steps to build the right relationships. What now?
1. The Who: Who are your happy customers?
Sometimes the best way to understand something is to understand what it’s not.
You don’t earn long-term success by delighting customers through one interaction at one point in time. Yes, a friendly smile and a promotional offer are both good things, but put yourself in the shoes of your customers—everywhere they go, they’ll likely experience a similar level of “good” customer service.
Here’s the reality…
Good customer service is no longer good enough. It’s table stakes. Customer expectations have changed, and they’re on the rise. Compared to a year ago, 54% of customers have higher expectations for customer service today.
So what differentiates good from great—and how do we get to great? How do we form impactful relationships with our customers who will remember and come back to us instead of our competitors?
The key here is to achieve customer loyalty. Loyal customers are five times more likely to buy again and four times more likely to refer their friends to you.
A happy customer is someone who will promote your brand, even when you’re not there to notice it. They’ll keep coming back to you, not because of a promotional offer or because you’ve got the lowest price, but because they trust in you and your business. Ultimately, that’s good news for you because you’ll be able to maintain a high customer retention rate.
2. The Why: Why are happy customers key to a successful business?
Maintaining a lasting relationship with your customers makes it more likely that they’ll be invested to help you succeed. Sound corny? Not really, they actually do. Here are a few ways happy customers help your business:
- They save you money: Repeat business with a loyal customer allows you to save money compared to having to attract new business, which costs five times as much—and that’s in addition to them spending money on you.
- They pay you more: Having a loyal customer base allows you to set higher prices. Consumers are willing to spend 17% more on businesses that have outstanding customer service. Happy customers buy at the price point you want, and they also buy more.
- They refer you to others: Word of mouth is a powerful tool to help attract prospective customers who may not otherwise reach you on their own. 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family.
Creating positive experiences for your customers can help turn them into your brand advocates. Sure, these types of relationships take time to build, but achieving happy customers gets you more customers in the long run.
3. The 3 Hows: How to create (and keep) meaningful relationships with customers
Pro-tip #1: Start within.
Have you ever heard of the saying, “It takes money to make money”? Well, the same is true for investing in your employees. There is a large body of research discovering that happy employees create happy customers. Employees who are engaged and motivated are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20% increase in sales.
Each of your employees is responsible for a customer-facing aspect of your business. Whether it’s directly (like through daily interactions on the front line) or indirectly (like through product development or marketing), everyone should have the customers’ best interests in mind. Your employees are the ones who hold the closest relationships with your customers—if you want happy customers, you need them to be on board.
Create a work environment that promotes positive and attentive staff. Support them by providing opportunities to learn and grow with you. Empower them by giving them autonomy to make decisions. Give feedback and praise, and offer meaningful career development paths.
Happy employees are 12% more productive than the average employee, so be sure to make this mission a top priority. Hey, happiness is contagious—and promoting employee happiness benefits everyone. The best part? So many of these ways of making your employees happy are free. There’s literally no excuse not to praise your teammates when they’ve done something good. (More tips for effective teamwork here.)
Pro-tip #2: Be available.
In today’s world, customers expect to be able to connect quickly and easily with your business across a variety of channels (like through phone calls, live chat, and SMS). It’s important to havea multichannel (aka omnichannel) communication system in place so that you can give them different ways to connect.
(Or at the very least, have a strategy for handling inbound calls. For example, what do you do when lots of people are calling your business? Do they just all get the busy signal, or can they choose options on the phone menu to self-serve?)
For instance, take a situation where a customer discovers your site through an online search. From there, they may want to have a quick chat on your website to understand a few more things. The online chat may transfer over to a voice call, and finally, the interaction ends with you asking for their feedback in an email.
If you have an omnichannel customer service platform, it’s easier to guide your customers through a seamless experience with your business, since one teammate can pick up where another left off when talking to customers without missing a beat.
For instance, sometimes you might warm transfer a customer from an online chat over to a voice call. It’d be helpful to have a live profile of that customer that outlines their call log and communication history with you so that everyone knows what this customer bought from you and what they might need. Here’s how an example of a call log looks in RingCentral:
One of the most overlooked, yet effective, channels to improve customer engagement is through something we use every day: texting, or SMS. With our lives becoming increasingly mobile-focused, customers expect to reach businesses immediately—they don’t always want to talk on the phone or go through pages and pages of online searches.
Communicating to your customers through a texting platform gives you a variety of benefits:
- Better open rates: Customers are four times more likely to open a text they received compared to an email.
- Better response rates: It takes the average person under two minutes to respond to a text, while it may take them up to an hour and a half to respond to the same information by email.
- Higher employee productivity: Employees can connect with multiple customers at once on desktop or mobile, rather than talking to only one customer at a time when speaking over the phone.
If you’re using a multichannel platform, it should come with business texting too. For example, RingCentral lets you switch easily between calling, texting, and even faxing—on both your computer and your phone:
Pro-tip #3: Be personal.
There’s nothing more impersonal than trying to use a one-size-fits-all sales or marketing message to different groups of people. Today’s consumers are not only smart, they have high demands too.
They expect businesses to treat them as individuals and deliver tailor-made solutions. (We’ll get more into that below.) Epsilon’s research suggests that “80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.” You aren’t just competing on the products and services level anymore; you’re also competing on delivering great experiences.
So what does this mean for your business?
It means that to really connect with your customers, you have to get specific on their motivations, gain insights on their engagement preferences, then offer a customized experience that’s unique to their needs.
Here are a few things you can customize to achieve that:
Personalize your website experience:
- Customer profiles: Encouraging your customers to create a profile on your site allows you to ask about things like their notification preferences and the types of content they want to see from you in the future.
- Recommended products: Based on your customers’ browsing behaviors, you can set up a product recommendation engine on your site that automatically previews similar items for when they visit again (think Amazon’s “Related items you’ve viewed” section).
- Loyalty program: By tracking your customers’ unique spending habits, you can allow them to unlock special discounts or other rewards with you for reaching certain milestones. These are a very common type of customer retention program.
Personalize your emails:
- Campaigns: Segment your customer base (aka group them) according to their demographic, spending habits, and/or behaviors to target the right audience at the right time with promotions and requests for referrals. Here are a few examples of awesome email marketing campaigns.
- Customize the actual email: Emails might seem like pretty short and basic pieces of communication, but you could be tailoring everything from the subject line, messaging, and imagery, down to the timing of when the email should be sent to boost the chances of getting opens and replies. This goes for different types of emails like welcome emails and transactional emails. (You’re doing this, right?)
Personalize your calls/chats:
- Complete customer profiles: Personalize your customers’ call and chat experiences by having their full customer profile readily available. Check out tools that let you help customers quickly and reduce wait times to give them a better overall experience.
4. The What Now: So you’ve taken the steps to build customer relationships. What’s next?
Now it’s time to make sure your hard work pays off: track, survey, and get more customer reviews.
Track that data.
With any major change, it’s important to keep a pulse on how your tactics are actually measuring up. Keeping track of the data and analytics behind your latest fancy email or campaign will help you understand if your strategies are working or not—and enable you to make those all-important fact-based decisions.
One of the first data points to look at when you’re studying your customers: are they able to get through to you? (And how long is it takin them?) If you communicate mainly through email with customers, check your reply rates—are you responding to your customers’ emails quickly enough?
If you regularly talk on the phone with your customers, then try to find a communications tool that shows you data like call volume, inbound talk time, number of calls handled, and more all on one screen. For example, RingCentral’s analytics platform lets you see what’s going on in real time—and dig deep on the adjustments you might need to make:
You’ve done the work, now it’s time to sit back and pay attention. Asking for and listening to your customers’ feedback gives you another lens into how they feel about your business. Let’s look at two types of surveys worth sending:
- Transactional surveys: Request feedback on a customer’s recent experience with you. You’ll see these most often after making a sale, a customer service interaction, or a major product update. These aren’t designed to measure loyalty so much as to help a business understand how satisfied customers are after a particular exchange. Insights from transactional surveys can help you hone in on very specific areas for improvement.
Examples of metrics to measure: Satisfaction with support received, satisfaction with product or service, ease of finding what you were looking for
How might this look? Here’s an example from Warby Parker. Not only did they include the survey link right at the point of purchase, they even included a prize for taking it—what’s not to like about that?
- Relationship surveys: Assess the strength of a customer’s overall relationship with your business. These aren’t tied to any specific interaction and are much broader in coverage. They may be sent to your entire customer base to get an overall read on everyone who’s ever interacted with your business.
Examples of metrics to measure: likelihood to recommend your business, likelihood to return or repurchase, overall satisfaction
How might this look? Here’s an example from Clear. We all want to know what’s in it for us—and so do your customers. Add a short but descriptive reason to help customers understand why you want their feedback:
Ask for reviews.
The average customer reads 10 reviews before they feel like they can trust a business. So, yes, word of mouth can be a powerful selling tool. After all, communities trust each other’s advice and recommendations. This is a different sort of trust than the one a business builds with its customers—getting direct happy customer quotes conveys a different sense of sincerity, especially if those customers are well-known and perceived to be trustworthy. But don’t forget: it’s important to create the right opportunities to ask your customers to leave reviews for you.
Make it easy by providing an accessible, reputable space for sharing a review—whether it’s through Google, Facebook, a consumer report, or GlassDoor. Consider timing: ask at the right moment and strike while the iron is hot so that their impression of you is still fresh in mind. For instance, after providing stellar customer service (here’s how to do it as a team and make things easier for yourself), why not ask for a direct quote from the customer to describe their experience?
If you’re not getting the number of reviews you want, create incentives such as offering discounts or rewards to give your customers a little nudge. Finally, be mindful to respond to every review you receive—both good and bad. Your response goes a long way to show you truly care about customer feedback.
Earning happy customers: bring it all together
So what does a happy customer look like? Good news… you already know. All of us are happy customers already—for the businesses we like.
Take a step back and think about what you appreciate about one of your favorite businesses. What is it that differentiates your experience with them? Why are you loyal towards certain brands that you can confidently vouch for?
Take an inventory of all the things that make you a happy customer and consider how you can implement similar methods into your own business. Break it down into categories that look at their company culture, customer service, personalized interactions, and, of course, products.
Building a base of happy customers takes time, energy, and continuous devotion—but it’s worth the payoff. There are so many simple ways to get started, so why wait? It’s often the little things that matter the most, and in this case, it just might start with saying “Hi” and acknowledging your customers for their business. Be genuine and have fun with it!