Article by Simon T. Bailey
Need to give your business an edge over the competition? Stop selling and start connecting. Customer love is the key.
Going beyond the transaction is what keeps you in business. Only 4 percent of entrepreneurial ventures survive for 10 years. I’m proud to be among them, with 18 years behind me as a speaker, author, and coach. Before setting out on my own, I spent years in hospitality — including work at Disney — so I have a deep appreciation for great customer service. My years as a solopreneur have only furthered my belief that relationships are the currency of professional success.
By turning introductions into opportunities and moments into memories, you can create clients for life.
Unforgettable experiences improve your brand story, increase customer retention, and stimulate word-of-mouth marketing. I am convinced that this is the greatest time in history to level up your business, and I challenge you to think of your interactions as connect-the-dot experiences that confirm why someone should do business with you.
To understand how to truly love your customer and provide the ideal service experience to them, you need to first answer three questions:
- What is the experience of your business, brand, or service?
- Are your client connections meaningful or only money-oriented?
- Where can you create an above-and-beyond moment?
Once you have answered these questions, you can get to work connecting with people. Customer love is the professional embodiment of intentional empathy, creating a positive emotional imprint in every interaction.
There are a few primary principles of customer love that I learned early in my career and use in my own business to this day. I know they’ll help you, whether you’re moving real estate, working as an independent marketer, or trying to find the true believers in your startup.
1. See Customers as Guests
Provide a warm and gracious greeting to everyone you come into contact with, thus creating an environment of customer love. Use your customer’s name whenever possible. If you don’t know it, ask.
2. Personalize the Experience
Tailor your platinum service moment for each customer. This can be done in almost any type of business. For example, an Uber driver who once delivered me to the airport in Columbia, South Carolina, made it a point to ask if I enjoyed my visit. He even shared a laundry list of vetted suggestions for local restaurants, scenic sites, and other off-the-beaten-path goodies, should I decide to return. That gentleman created an impression that lasted long after our meeting. He understands how to create an appetite for return travel. That’s customer love.
Even if most of your customer interactions are online instead of face to face, first impressions still count. As the British linguist David Crystal writes in The Stories of English, modern technology has affected language. He explains that email, texting, and netspeak have all visibly changed the way we interact with language, as well as how quickly our modern vernacular evolves. Although the digital age has certainly strengthened the global community, cyberspeak shorthand can easily depersonalize and disconnect. Keep that in mind, especially when you’re replying to customer reviews or questions on social media.
3. Anticipate and Uncover Customer Needs
Success in today’s competitive business environment is contingent on predicting and understanding customer behavior. Only after identifying what the guest of your brand or business wants can you customize solutions to suit their needs.
A great example would be how the digital analytics company Amplitude is partnering with the fitness brand Peloton. I recently had a chance to speak at a virtual event for Amplitude, where I learned how Peloton leverages the behaviors of its most active users. The company developed a framework to organically identify customer usage patterns: Observe customer actions, validate them across a variety of user profiles, and use that information for future features and product ideation.
Essentially, Peloton posed two questions: How are our most engaged members using our product? How might we productize these behaviors and make them applicable to the widest possible audience?
How could you ask the same of your business or brand?
4. Respond With Immediate and Appropriate Service
Consistently work to improve the customer experience and resolve issues in a way that demonstrates a commitment to customer love. If you can’t fulfill your promises to your clients, immediate communication to manage expectations is paramount. According to a survey conducted by American Express, 78 percent of consumers have not completed an intended purchase due to a poor customer experience.
5. Keep Them Loyal Through Acts of Kindness
Surprise is a powerful emotion. When you delight a customer, you strengthen their memory response and create powerful, lasting connections to your brand. The customer love mindset is about identifying opportunities for random acts of kindness — deciding where you can do more or go the extra mile instead of the extra inch.
See, Help, Infuse, and Praise
Ultimately, customer love means seeing your current and prospective clients as guests, personalizing their experiences, recognizing and responding to their needs, and engaging in random acts of kindness.
The economic uncertainty of the past year has created an opportunity across many industries to reset or revamp the way we show up for ourselves and our businesses. My parting advice for you would be to take this time to see, help, infuse, and praise your clients and customers.
- See your clients for who they are instead of who you think they are or who you want them to be. It’s critical to take what someone has to offer without the limitations of expectation. Pay attention to the language they use, the questions they ask, and what drives or excites them.
- Help people where they are, not for what you can gain from where they are going. Often, our default is to only initiate what we perceive as advantageous relationships. If this is always your goal, you will miss out on innumerable opportunities and valuable connections, thanks to your professional hubris.
- Infuse people with hope. Equip, empower, or encourage the guests of your brand with the tools to harness their potential and get the most out of what they are doing or where they want to go.
- Praise people for the value and difference they are already making. Never underestimate the power of celebrating others for the little things they do. When you empower others, you create relationships that drive results.
Simon T. Bailey is an international speaker, writer, and personal transformation strategist. He is the author of Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc., and Be the SPARK: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life. When he’s not working, he enjoys rooting for the Buffalo Bills (his hometown team).