In last week’s MSP Marketing Madness blog, we discussed the idea of humanizing your brand to win more business by solving for your customer’s human problems in addition to their business problems. By doing so, you will start to build trust with your customers and an advocate base that will drive future referrals.
Next comes the challenge of keeping your customers happy. In today’s world, simply providing good service doesn’t cut it anymore. Your business needs to deliver great customer service and provide them with extra, unexpected value such as personalized service or additional support, when needed. During his keynote at the INBOUND 13 Conference, the leader of HubSpot Academy, Mark Kilens (@MarkKilens), explored the key components to keeping his HubSpot customers happy by building customer loyalty.
Mark quoted Simon Sinek who defined loyalty as the situation “when people are willing to turn down a better product or price to continue doing business with you”. So, what factors make a buyer turn down a better offer? Mark believes that there are three pillars that each business must address in order to build customer loyalty and unwavering brand advocates:
1. Product – Products need to be good (if not great), and people need to love using them!
2. Communication – Communications need to be personal. Businesses need to develop relationships built on trust and effective communication between the supplier and the consumer.
3. Education – Businesses need to take the time to educate customers, both on the need and the solution, in order to be successful and become a trusted expert.
Mark encouraged each person to identify which pillar they thought was their weakest and develop a plan of action to address the need. By doing so, we would understand where we could improve our customer delight, which Mark said, was the most significant factor in determining customer loyalty. He noted, most businesses measure success for customer support based on the Customer Satisfaction Survey, however, “satisfactory” just means “good enough”. A more accurate measurement would be to analyze your Net Promoter Score (NPS), which more directly measures the correlation to customer loyalty. This directly asks the question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to your friends and colleagues?” The NPS methodology is a fantastic test for perceived value and how well you are delighting your customers.
Mark’s overall message was simple: In order to build customer loyalty, your business must delight customers through a series of interactions – large and small – that lead to a larger overall experience that represents your brand. It’s not necessarily what you say that people remember –it’s how you make them feel! At the end of the day, you need to make an impression on your customers to gain loyalty.
See Mark’s slide deck from the conference: Keeping Customers Happy: The Pillars of Delight
The Fourth Pillar
In my opinion, there is actually a fourth pillar to creating customer loyalty – People. Your brand is inspired, sculpted, and driven by you and your employees. All of your business relationships, especially since your business is becoming humanized, need to become a reflection of you and the people that interact with your customers on a daily basis. According to the Corporate Executive Board, 64% of customers cited that shared values as a primary reason for a strong brand relationship. Your employees need to solve customer problems, provide recommendations, be enthusiastic, and consistently educate your customers on what you can do for them. Great employees are your most valuable asset because they add to the brand of your business and your customers will never love your company unless your employees can convey that they love it too!
Why this matters to your business
I mentioned in my last post that you cannot create cookie cutter experiences for your sales and marketing interactions. Similarly, you cannot create cookie cutter experiences for your customers when it comes to customer service. Each interaction you have with your customers adds to their perception of your business. And, every small interaction leads to a larger overall experience, and that experience becomes your brand. When a customer recognizes that your business cares about their success and strives to provide excellent customer experience–delivering incredible support, providing them with best-in-class products, empowering end-users to be more productive, consistent monitoring and management of business critical systems, and solving real human and business problems–you are able to delight your customers. Your job as a service provider is to delight customers and execute with consistency to provide them with remarkable service, time after time. At the end of the day, delighting customers is your number one way to maintain customer loyalty.
Following Mark’s pillars, here are some things you should focus on in order to delight your customers:
1. Product – Make sure you have great performing products in your portfolio, built by reputable vendors that you can trust. By delivering the perfect solution to your customers, you’re going to build customer loyalty which will drive future business opportunities. Mark mentioned a statistic from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs that, “on average, loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase”. Ask yourself, “what products in my portfolio can best fit the needs, and provide the most value, regardless of incentive/margin?” Even if you deliver a product at a lower marginal opportunity initially, the subsequent purchases from that customer will allow you to make more money in the long term, as long as you make sure to provide excellent products to your customers that solve their problems, both human and business.
2. Communication – Delighting customers is about creating authentic, personal, and long lasting relationships with your customers. Managed Service Providers have routinely been able to build this type of relationship and trust. However, as a service provider, you need to think about ways you can strengthen your relationship and trust with your customers. Keeping the communication lines open and consistently having conversations with your customers on their IT issues, staying ahead of industry trends, and coming to them with other ways that you can help your business and employees be more productive will allow you to maintain your customers and establish a loyalty that is hard to separate.
3. Education – As the trusted IT expert, your job is to advise your customers on IT related issues and offer them the best solution to solve the need. Take the time to really explain why they need your services. What are the risks to their business if they don’t implement your suggestions? What are some of the emerging trends, such as BYOD/BYOA, that they need to make sure are managed in their environment? Your job isn’t just to deliver service to them, but to educate them and make them understand how pivotal your service is to their business.
4. People (Bonus)– The people that represent your company are as important, if not more important, as the solution set you provide your customers. Your hiring methodology is extremely important as you grow your business because the people you hire represent your brand. Work with people that want to make it easy for customers, resolve their problems, and personalize the conversations to make a lasting impression and build rapport. Your culture needs to reflect your commitment to your customers before you can create a lasting relationship and build a loyal customer following.
So, what part of your business do you need to improve to enhance your customer loyalty and drive customer delight?