Lalafo
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Lalafo

How to Develop Loyalty and Create a Brand Advocate?

For a year now, I’ve been a loyal customer of a water delivery company. I was a real brand advocate — I recommended them to my friends and never even looked at their competitors. But then this company delivered water to the wrong address — a mistake by an operator that didn’t notice that my delivery address had changed. I brushed it off. Some time passed and they suddenly didn’t deliver the water on the agreed upon day — it made me sad, but I persisted as their customer. Later, they started delivering at random times without any notice and I grew tired of such experiences — I called their operator to cancel my subscription. Even then I was open to a dialog. I’d change my mind if someone just talked to me and explained the situation. An operator started the cancellation process and… I had to call them three times to finish it.

I became a customer of a company that had good-quality water and it was a pleasure calling them. Their water is more expensive than that of the previous company’s, but with timely delivery, great product quality and respect to me as a client, it’s well worth it. This is a prime example of losing loyalty. Don’t do like this!

This is not a disaster if you do not have a lot of loyal customers. Disaster is if you turn loyal customers into brand opponents — those are a lot like brand advocates, but in reverse. They too, will tell their friends about you. However, their tale will not be a positive one.

Today, I’m working as the Chief Customer Support Officer at LALAFO. This project operates in 4 countries and each day hundreds of people contact us with all kinds of questions and suggestions. Our team processes every single request — no one goes unnoticed.

Despite their age, sex, occupation and mentality being different, all of our customers have a single need — a need to be heard. Trust me: so do your customers. If you’re not listening to your customers, they’ll go somewhere they’re more welcome. What’s your business with no customers? Exactly.

Where to start?

Based on my experience, I came up with few basic and universal suggestions that will help you attract more loyal customers no matter what your business is.

The first thing to remember is that loyalty is formed from the very first contact with the client. You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression — if a client contacts you for the first time, show them that they were not wrong in doing so. Find out what they need and give them more than that. This only delivers for you a satisfied customer. Wait. What’s the difference between satisfaction and loyalty?

The following advice will help you a lot if used together and on a constant basis:

Be loyal and exceed expectations

Your relationship with your customers is a two way street — if you want loyalty and understanding from them, you must become loyal and understanding. Every company has their own work and troubleshooting processes. Don’t be afraid to break the mold and not be mundane bureaucrats. For example, if you’re a sales manager and your customer has a question about design, don’t give them your designer’s email — give them a solution.

Understand your customers and their values

Someone will be glad to receive an unexpected discount and someone else would be happy to get a personalized birthday greeting. Most loyalty programs are carbon copies of each other. So if your only strategy is to keep your customers using discounts or savings programs, you’re risking losing them the very moment your competitor offers them a better deal.

High-quality support with a human soul

The customer-facing team is your company’s true face. Your support must solve your customers’ problems quickly and in good spirit. In some cases, a single support agent may not be enough — if the customer has a serious issue, a manager should contact them and show that the company understands their concern and their request will receive their full attention.

Admit your mistakes

If your customer has issues, don’t tell him how it’s because your servers crashed or all your developers fell ill at the same time and you can’t address their request now. Listen to them, admit your mistakes and take responsibility. Don’t make excuses — tell your customers how you’ll make it better and stick to your word. This does not mean you need to promise them something impossible. It’s better to pleasantly surprise them later if you can exceed the expectations.

Evoke positive emotions

It’s important to make sure you’re not “buying” your customers with gifts and discounts, but making surprises just because you want to and appreciate them. People will forget what you said, but will always remember how it made them feel.

Remember that every day you have a choice of how to communicate to your customers. Your choice today determines what kind of customers you’ll have tomorrow. Don’t forget that loyalty is a two-way street.

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