Loyalty, Customer Experience, and the Death of Your Business

Customer Experience

Customer Experience

The deeper I get into the research concerning customer loyalty and engagement, the more it is pounded into me that it centers on Customer Experience (CX for short). The kicker about CX is that, while there are certain common factors and processes that carry across most customers and audiences, it really is an individual experience with you and your business. What does this mean?

First let’s look at the percentage of Loyal customers / audience you already have. Recent studies propose that you may have between 8%-15% customers that can be considered Loyal (your mileage may vary, especially given the differences in businesses: e.g. a coffee shop may have a greater opportunity for “regular” loyalty than a real estate office…). Let’s posit that your customers (a) DO have the opportunity, given your product / service, to purchase from you again within 12 months (and can certainly REFER you at any time!), and (b) this product /service is of value to them and at a fair price. The end-to-end CX for them has been better-than-just-positive overall, hence their loyalty. Their post-purchase experience has also been “positive+” (better than just OK…).

As it turns out, that bit is very important! 

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Why Focus on Loyalty?

Loyalty

Loyalty

Loyalty, always a high-sounding word, is ever more in the news and on our minds.

Whether it’s loyalty to a sports team, a political cause or ideology, a leader, a brand, a long-standing relationship, a coffee shop, or the family doctor, we seem to be more concerned with it and discuss it more than ever before.

I’ve been doing (and continue to dig into…) research on loyalty. Specifically, I am interested in:
  • What the drivers are for customer loyalty to businesses
  • How these drivers relate to relationship and dialogue stages
  • Factors / components that are online, off-line, and a blend of the two
  • Other components or influences that I have yet to uncover
While this will not be the “Unified Theory of Loyalty” (with apologies to physicists everywhere….), I wish to come to a clearer understanding of what establishes, builds and maintains this stance in customers and people in general. Humans are complex, absolutely unique individuals who, nonetheless, exhibit certain related behaviors and tendencies. If this were not so, the social sciences would have to just fold up their collective tents and take up hospitality management.

As I continue to research this topic and make discoveries, I will be writing about them here first. The eventual end-product is likely to be a paper, some podcasts, a video or two….likely a combination of all of the above.

So stay tuned!

Now, having gotten the preface out of the way, let me get to the first bit:

Why Loyalty?

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What Do Your Customers Think?

Happy Customers

Happy Customers!

Got customers?

Then you are interested in what they think of you, since that will drive not only whether they purchase your product or service, but other things, too. Like:
  • What do think of your product  / service?
  • Will they buy again?
  • How will you know what they think unless they tell you?
  • What kind of review will they give you (on-line or off-line)?
  • What kind of influence will their experience have on how others think of you?

The basic ideas behind Customer Experience (or CX as it has come to be known) have been around for awhile. Think about when you walk into an office or a store of some kind. The initial impression of location, attractiveness, and the employees’ attitude towards you all contribute to the CX. It could be all over the place as to your experience, but that was, and is, a huge part of it In Real Life (IRL, for those of you who like acronyms…).

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Collaboration: The Action Side of Conversation

Collaboration

Collaboration

Collaboration is the action-oriented manifestation of dialogue.

I had an online conversation with a colleague during which we each remarked on the current snapshot of busy-ness we have (summer can be notoriously slow, depending on your business…I think the ice cream parlors pick up, but I digress…) and some of the projects we’re working on. Then she offered to “hop on a call” and look at some ways we could collaborate. This caught me by happy surprise, as I’ve never met her face-to-face, since she lives a continent away.

Her suggestion immediately sent my imagination reeling in a kind of high, fuzzy way. By that I mean that I couldn’t think of what such a collaboration might look like immediately, but the chance to take part in it opens up unknown possibilities….which are always exciting! While the possibility may mean work for me that I might not have done otherwise (filling out my “bandwidth” for the week, for sure….) the value of that work would be at the top for me.

Collaboration, as I mentioned earlier, is conversation in action. The shared listening and thoughts, the enlightenment and discovery, the humor and evolution of opinion and points-of-view result in an end-point of sorts that could not have been gotten to any other way.

  • Do you do this in your business?

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Doing Specifics the Right Way

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specific

Be Specific!

The challenge of being specific is that it seems impossible to scale.

What does being specific mean in your business? It’s the truth behind perception, communication, understanding, prejudice and the barriers presented by a kind of ‘telephone’ game space between people. It means that if you can connect with one person, that doesn’t mean you can connect with the next one, no matter HOW much alike they are. And that is the end point….how do you plan or strategize for this kind of connection?

Going by previous data and experience will only get you so far. And sometimes it doesn’t even work for the same person! Think about how your own thoughts and feelings have changed over the years. If the “younger me” tried to convince the “today me” of a number of things about people, places, beliefs, prejudices and things I’ve learned more about over the years, well….I would have walked away as a younger man.

So back to being specific…in business, I’ve learned that a focus on “anybody who” as a customer is actually no one. Even honing it down to “A small business owner with a company that has 5 – 100 employees and has been in business for at least 5 years” is too broad. What do they care about? What are those 2 or 3 things that are nagging, painful problems they just can’t seem to crack? While each business is unique and has its own problems, there ARE business norms and trends in the U.S. There is a certain amount of consistency.

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Can We Save This Conversation?

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conversation

Have the Conversation

The events of this past week and my ongoing focus and interest in conversation and communication converged in a big way. Can’t ignore this one….not that I’d want to. The challenge and opportunity are too big.

The direction that America takes impacts us all as citizens and as business people. No one enjoys uncertainty, but it seems that uncertainty can provide an opening for conversation. Without going into details and the innumerable permutations that this provides, it is safe to say that, despite anyone’s expectations, things will likely turn out differently than any of us suppose at this time. Establishing and building upon conversations, we can begin to mend the trust so horribly lost over the past months and years.

The day after the US election I got to experience an election of a different sort. I am honored to report that I and 5 more of my colleagues have been elected to the Board of Directors of our local Chamber of Commerce. In this context, the first question that came to mind was “What does the national election mean for the business climate in our area?” One of the terrific things I’ve noted about the area in which I live is the ongoing, strong focus on the community. I’ve seen what I’ve come to call the Venn Diagram of Local Involvement. How this manifests itself is that I see many of the same people involved in numerous business, community and non-profit organizations. Not ALL the same people in every one, but of the community that I come in contact with, I see many of them participating and leading. These folks really CARE about each other, and, not only is that good for the community, but it’s good for business too.

How Do You Focus To Listen?

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Listen-To-Understand

Listen-To-Understand

There is a budding resurgence taking place concerning the importance of Conversation in life and business. Not that a lot of the words aren’t just hanging out there, dissipating in the wind. A lot of businesses grab the “shiny thing” when it comes to the latest discussions and thinking around whatever can keep us growing, or at least “safe.” I still experience an enormous amount of Telling and Broadcasting instead of Conversation and Engagement, both online and off-line. Even conversation has numerous forks in the concept, the largest two seem to be “listening-to-reply” and “listening-to-understand.”
A few years ago I wrote an article about the abundance of LIKING-type behavior online in comparison to the actual conversation taking place. Businesses were still trying to figure out this new paradigm where the customers actually controlled the brand perceptions, and NOT the BRAND controlling them. Along with the immature capabilities for measuring real engagement and the misunderstanding surrounding the actual meaning and value of a LIKE or a FOLLOW or a “+1” meant that the definitions of success were too fuzzy, and likely incorrect.
Things are different now.

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