Customer Experience News & Trends

Trash-talking customer loyalty: 5 ways to win it

Would customers talk trash in your defense? That’s the kind of loyalty sports teams get — and you might be able to achieve that level of devotion, too.

Really, don’t sports teams have the most loyal customers?

Even when the staff (team, that is) isn’t doing the job well, customers (fans, that is) show up donning their colors and talking smack to anyone who puts them down. And when it’s a total loss, sports fans just look past the current situation and to the next opportunity for a great experience.

Everyone can do it

Truth is, there is some method to the madness. Sports organizations work at keeping fans loyal — win or lose.

These five tips — employed by both world-class customer service providers and professional sports teams — will help build loyalty in any kind of business.

1. Understand the market

The best way to understand who your most loyal customers are — or could be — is to survey them about what they like. Don’t ask about their last experience or a transaction. Instead, focus on what keeps them coming back. You don’t even have to conduct a random survey. Work with customers who’ve been with you longest. They’re likely willing to respond with candid, useful feedback.

Some questions to ask:

  • What’s the No. 1 reason you come back to us?
  • What’s the best thing about the experience here?
  • What’s one thing we can improve, and how do you feel when we fail at it?
  • What makes us more special than other providers you’ve tried?

Avoid getting hung up on yourselves when customers lay out the compliments. Instead, find ways to do more of what they like.

2. Be different

You may provide the same product or service as other companies, but you don’t want to provide the same experience.

Every baseball team has a different mascot that performs unique antics at games. Vendors at ballparks use unique selling propositions.

Unique experiences create memories that customers want to come back for. Example: Southwest Airlines makes a practice of creating memories in less than ideal situations — flight delays. Agents initiate games at the gate, asking people to find the oldest coin, holiest sock or most beat up carry-on. Then they give a small reward to some winners.

3. Reward your top-tier

In nearly every business, the loyal customers also spend the most money. They should be recognized for it, and it doesn’t have to be ongoing. An occasional incentive or unexpected perk coupled with a sincere thanks for the loyalty is plenty.

Most sports teams give season ticket holders perks others don’t get — such as visits from cheerleaders and mascots, opportunities to meet players and coaches, and visits to the field.

At the Ritz-Carlton, they make sure everyone knows who their loyal customers are so all employees can extend some special recognition to those customers. The bellhop asks arriving customers if it’s their first time visiting. He puts one color tag on new customers’ luggage and another on returning customers’ luggage. Then all employees know what kind of special treatment to give.

4. Measure quickly and often

Some benchmarks to keep in mind when measuring satisfaction and loyalty:

  • Gather detailed demographics of loyal and all other customers once a year.
  • Survey customer satisfaction through online or written surveys quarterly.
  • Conduct random transaction surveys throughout the year.

One key to maintaining and building loyalty through surveys: Respond quickly to negative feedback. You can likely win back any lost loyalty by showing customers you listen.

The Oklahoma City Thunder posts a number throughout the stadium that customers can text with a complaint or compliment. If fans identify where they’re seated, an Thunder employee will respond to them personally and immediately.

5. Respond

Customers will come back as long as you let them know you’ll take what they say and use it to be better. They compliment and complain because they believe in your company — and want to continue doing business with you.

So give them feedback, too. Regularly update customers on the info you’ve gathered and how you have or will respond.

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