A celebrity is convicted in a murder case and millions of people still support him (no surprises for guessing who). On the other hand, you just get a negative review on Facebook and suddenly all your business seems crashing down.

Why?

Because the celebrity has an army of loyal customers, which in his case are his fans. Loyal customers don’t go to a business to buy a product or a service, they buy the brand. That is why when Apple launches a product with one-tenth the features or ten times the price, people still line up the streets to buy.

In this day and age when creating a significantly different product from your competitors is becoming so difficult, how do then businesses create a sustainable differentiation? By offering superior customer experience that leads to an army of loyal customers. This is the reason why some companies always have a sticky set of customers in their kitty, who regardless of the company’s ups and downs, do not leave their side. Many companies try to get that kind of fan following but fail to do so simply because they forget that the most important thing about business is not revenue or product, but the customer.

Here’s how you can go about understanding what the customers want and in what form :

1. Answer some fundamental questions

First of all you need to understand and jot down answers to some fundamental questions about your business. Why do customers buy what you’re selling? What pain point are you solving for them?

Answering these questions and imbibing them as your core values will translate to actions, and help you craft your products and services accordingly. For example, Apple knows people don’t buy phones for 8 GB of ram, and hence they never even mention it. They know what ergonomics of a phone they have to deal with, they know exactly why a customer wants or buys a luxury phone, and they use just that to sell it.

2. Exceed their expectations

After knowing what your customers are expecting of you, its time to exceed those expectations! Take what they know about your service to “oh but did you know we also have this to offer?”. Bring surprise and a smile to the customer’s face by going the extra mile. Its the ‘Aha!’ moment for the customers that will keep them coming back to you.

3. Listen to them

In this day and age your customers are everywhere, trust me, EVERYWHERE. They’re talking about you on Facebook, they’re writing reviews about you on various websites, they’re mentioning you on Twitter. Why miss out on this rather large gold mine of data? Tap your ears into these data generators and listen!

4. Surprise your customers

Who doesn’t like pleasant surprises? A personalised email to your customer on his birthday, or a surprise discount coupon for a highly valued customer, are examples of some small things which can take you a long way. Every customer remembers good service. But what you want is to not forget just how great you guys are! Leverage your brand by rewarding your customers unexpectedly.

5. Be responsive

Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to let your customers know what that you’re there for them. Imagine going to restaurant A and finding that the food was horrible, compared to restaurant B where the servicing was delayed but the food was okay. Now if it is restaurant A that called and offered a sincere apology immediately after you wrote them a negative review, guess who got a new loved customer! Thats right, you are more likely to visit restaurant A next time.

Its not just important to have an impeccable service quality, but also to respond to them as soon as you can. Interact with your customers on a daily basis, appreciate their appraisal, address their grievance and acknowledge their suggestions.

6. Be transparent

Customers love when a brand is transparent, with no hidden agendas. A clear view of the modus operandi of the brand’s product/services is very important. Nobody likes to be told “We’re sorry you did not get water in your room on time, we are looking into the matter” and then not turn up for hours since you’re busy fixing the purifier. Tell your customers what’s going wrong, be honest about it and they’ll understand. Keeping them in the dark will only add to more frustration. Of course, there is a fair chance that some customers will still get upset even after your honest answer, but hey you tried your best!

7. Be approachable

You have to be there when they have a concern, you have to be where they are in the internet realm. Let them know you can be approached with any concern or request and you’ll listen.Have a rather personal-looking feedback form, or a friendly reminder that you’ll look forward to hearing back from them, or a warm handshake at the checkout. Know your target audience, step into their shoes and build your brand according to their fancies, so that you get the maximum exposure.Do everything you can to make them feel at home, and to acquaint them with yourself and your warm hospitality. Let them know that you are there at their beck and call.

To conclude…

Your brand deserves its own set of fans and loyal customers provided you are ready to make the extra effort for it. Building a culture of fan following is not a cake walk and might take a long time to manifest itself. However, there are always tools you can use to accurately understand what your customers are talking about and how to go about improving their experience.

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