My Three Principles for Driving Loyalty

In my previous post, I introduced three core tenets of mine which I hold dear when servicing customers or clients. They are Ease, Trust, and Intrinsic Reward. I also touched upon my core goal of driving loyalty. In this post, I’d like to tie them together.

It’s important to quickly point out that Client/Customer Success, Service, and Support are not one in the same, but all are tremendously important in their own context and all do share the ultimate goal of driving loyalty. And what is ‘loyalty’ in the real world? Renewed contracts, repeat purchases, and an increased appetite for your goods or services (i.e., upsell and cross sell).

So, let’s start the dive...

Ease — If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage picking up a copy of “The Effortless Experience” by Matthew Dixon. It puts years of research and tens of thousands of data points into the thesis that the level of effort exerted by your customers or clients is the single biggest driver of loyalty. (Or disloyalty.) The numbers and examples are compelling and if you reflect on your own personal experiences, you will likely find them confirming.

Let’s look at ‘ease’ then in the context of a recurring revenue business. Let’s say you’re a Client Success Manager at a SaaS company. By definition, your job is to help the client attain the most value they possibly can from your product or service.

Let’s say that you have a high-touch, high-value client. Naturally they’re going to get your attention, but is it easy for them to do so? How quickly do you return their calls or emails? How many times do they have to contact you to get a response? Do you anticipate and address their next issues or potential pitfalls? Are you able to effectively translate the unintuitive. If they come to you with a technical problem, do you handle it if you can or make the transfer to Support as seamless as possible if you can’t?

Unfortunately I don’t remember where I read it, but the maxim “The seeds of churn are planted early.” really hit home with me. Even if your client gets that win early on, if it isn’t easy to do business with you, they eventually won’t.

Trust —In a mutually beneficial relationship, nothing is more important than trust. Client Success is by definitions a mutually beneficial relationship, so trust is naturally a core component.

On the front-lines of business, it really comes down to: “Can your client or customer count on you?” Do they know that you have their back and their best interests at heart? Yes of course they understand you need the revenue and/or renewal, but do they believe you when you say you genuinely want them to succeed or enjoy their purchase?

The same can be said for Customer Service and Customer Support, especially in cases when the customer is upset and coming in hot. The relationship is tense and fragile at that point, but with empathy, sincerity, and perhaps some well-placed comic relief, tempers settle and a feeling of trust begins to develop within the customer. They know you’re on their side, you can and will help, and that you will do your best to do so. The customer begins to turn the corner from upset to satisfied because now they know they can count on you (or your company’s people) to help them. Trust has been established and loyalty will follow.

Intrinsic Reward — This is the least actionable of the three. You can make something easier for somebody and you can prove your trust to them, but you can’t really tell them to feel good about you, your company, and its products. The best you can do is influence it.

Since this is also the most abstract, let’s use a tangential, if not extreme, example: The French Laundry. Was the food World Class? Absolutely. Was the service superb? Best ever. Was it expensive? Impossibly so. Did I feel good about handing over a good chunk of my money (and time) for their goods and services? You bet. In fact, not only would I dine there again, I also enjoy telling others about my experience. Perhaps there is a better word for it, but that is what I call Intrinsic Reward — a sense of pride about being a customer or client of a brand or company. And guess what that leads too: referrals — anything from simple word-of-mouth on up to something formal Marketing can use, like a quote or even a case study.

How this all translates into your company will naturally depend a lot on your product or service — but that’s almost always not enough, especially in e-commerce and even more so in a SaaS environment. Your frontline agents need to bring it home for the business. Striving for Ease, Trust, and Intrinsic Reward has worked exceptionally well for me. My hope is that it works great for you and your teams too.

- Nick