In a market where customers have more options than they know what to do with, the unfortunate reality for your company is that one missed phone call, one poor marketing campaign, or one botched customer service call means that customers will simply stroll down the street and give your competitor a try.
This proliferation of options has led many companies to explore how to secure customer loyalty, with some even going so far as to engage blogs like this one, asking me how to garner more positive reviews in an attempt to strengthen their tenuous hold on their customers.
In fact, it often seems like companies want to find some sort of magic loyalty elixir to give to their customers, somehow tricking or forcing those customers into an established and loyal relationship. But the simply fact is, there are no easy methods to achieve that sort of loyalty; just interaction, engagement, and most of all, honesty.
As Christopher J. Bucholtz, journalist for the CRM Buyer, explains, “We have more opportunities to interact with customers today through the proliferation of channels technology is creating. These channels can help businesses build relationships, and those relationships can generate increased loyalty, higher levels of satisfaction, and the conditions that lead to good word of mouth, consistent renewals and greater upselling opportunities.”
Simply put, whether its social media, online advertising, blogging, or video conferencing, technology has provided companies with exponentially more ways to connect with customers than ever before. The problem for many businesses, it seems to me, is that they simply don’t know how to utilize these channels to engage their customer base, and engagement, in this modern era, is the first step towards developing loyalty.
When I talk about not being able to force, command, or trick customers into loyalty, I’m certainly not recommending a passive marketing approach. In order to establish loyalty customers need genuine connection, not all out apathy. At a very basic level this means that customers in this modern era are tired of the hard sell or the high pressure pitch, preferring instead a conversation where the customer feels both included and heard. For companies this means toning down the selling in favour of authenticity; difficult to be sure, but well worth it in the end.
The key to developing a genuine connection with your customer base is, as Bucholtz notes, engagement, creating opportunities for your customers to become part of the process. While such engagement will obviously look different for different companies, I’ve found when it comes to telecommunications solutions the most obvious form of engagement is dialogue.
There’s no question that dialogue still involves the more traditional tact of meeting with clients, listening to their needs, and involving them in every step of the creation of their business phone system, but in this modern era it also means providing quality information here at TheTelecomblog.com, creating helpful online videos for clients in response to common issues or frequently asked questions, and establishing web portals for clients to get instant connection when they need it (just to name a few).
While some companies like to think they make customers feel in control, I want customers to be in control; to assimilate the information we’re able to provide, and (with our help should it be needed) to make an informed decision about their telecommunication needs.
In the end, you can’t buy loyalty nor can you force or command it upon someone. There is no way to achieve the sort of customer loyalty and good will that quality businesses have established without customers’ willing participation, and their participation will only come about through active engagement.