One of the main differences between high-performing companies and simply good ones is that the former focus on creating enthusiastic, "Loyal" customers. But how many organizations succeed in creating "Loyal" customers or, in other words, customers who actually act as their ambassadors in the market?
The bad news is that there are few; the good news is that there can be many.
Let's take a look at some ways through which we can create "Enthusiastic customers" who will essentially act as salespeople for our company.
First, we must focus primarily on our customers and not so much on our quantitative goals. In the V.U.C.A. environment that we live in (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), full of stress and intense competition, the sales process and the relationship with our customers becomes very often a pursuit of numbers. We give priority to our budget objectives and we forget how crucial it is to make a ‘’deep dive’’ into our customers’ needs, desires, and concerns. Simply put, we focus on the tree and miss the forest.
Nowadays, in the fields of Customer Experience Management, It is widely accepted that providing personalized emotional services to our customers is the key competitive advantage for companies who want to build loyalty. According to KPMG’s Global Customer Experience Excellence research 2020, personalization was the strongest pillar in driving customer loyalty in 19 of the 27 markets where the research was conducted. Therefore, in order to boost our sales, it’s a prerequisite to provide "personalized emotional experiences", so that our customers feel intimacy and connected to our brand.
We also need to acquire an in-depth understanding of what their true needs are, what are their deepest desires, motivations, worries, and fears. In short, we need to be connected with our customers' ‘’mammalian brains’’ in order to be emotionally attached to them. We must see through their eyes and try to understand their perceptions.
But how can we do that? There are many tools that can help us.
A ‘’must have’’ tool in every sellers’ ‘’arsenal’’ is an effective questioning strategy. Through the proper use of ‘’open-ended’’ and ‘’closed-ended’’ questions we can elicit useful information for our customers’ deepest needs and, at the same time, build a strong relationship with them, based on mutual trust and intimacy. To put it another way, we must always remember that the value of a great salesperson is determined primarily by the quality of the information he collects and less by the amount of information he provides. So, the next time that you’re going to have a conversation with your customer, try to talk less, but listen and ask more!
The second very crucial point in order to "build" Customer Loyalty is to create as many ‘’positive experiences’’ as possible for them. Which means to turn every touch point or interaction they have with our company into a ‘’pleasant habit’’, if possible. We want them to become ‘’addicted" to continuous memorable experiences and to always surprise them positively, in order to establish a strong relationship with them. According to neuroscientists this is known as ‘’The Emotional Loyalty Loop’’.
But in order to make the above-mentioned sequence clearer, we have to take some things from the beginning and see what the similarities and differences are between the ‘’Habitual’’ and Emotional loop’’, and how we can utilize this knowledge in order to build Customer Loyalty.
So, let's see how habits are formed, how this mechanism is connected and how it differs from the mechanism of creating loyal customers (The Emotional Loyalty Loop).
The following figure shows in more detail the Habitual Loyalty Loop:
Charles Duhigg: The power of habit
As Charles Duhigg says in his best seller book ‘’The power of habit’’, a habit is a choice that we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing, very often. Put another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows; when there is a CUE, we follow a ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD. And we constantly follow this loop, by creating specific rituals through which we get a reward.
The problem with all habits, once they are being established in our daily routines, is that the whole process and the reward stay the same and we’re no longer being surprised every time we reexperience them.
In some cases (such as hobbies) this is fair enough. In some other however it isn’t, and that’s why we don’t remain faithful to the habitual loop over time. A phenomenon occurs, which is called ‘’Hedonic Adaptation’’, and it describes the psychological circumstance where human beings adapt very quickly to environmental and life changes, especially when we’re talking about ‘’Extrinsic Motivators’’. For example, we receive a bonus that we’ve wanted for years, we enjoy it for a specific period and then it becomes our new normal. (That’s why great organizations use a combination of Intrinsic – such as recognition and autonomy, and Extrinsic Motivators – bonuses, days off etc., in order to create a working environment that motivates their employees). We give a cookie with every coffee to our customers and after a while they take it for granted and it no longer surprises them.
Let’s see now how the cycle of creating loyal customers, or the "Emotional Loyalty Loop’’, works and what is the basic differentiator with the habitual loop. The basic components of Customer Experience Management are the following: Expectations – Experiences - Feelings – Memories Repetition.
All customers have an initial expectation before they buy or use a product or a service.
When they buy or use it, they have either a positive or a negative experience. If their experience is a positive one, a ‘’WOW’’ experience (which means an experience that exceeds their initial expectation) then a positive feeling is being created, which then formulates a positive memory. The next time, with a similar stimulus, our memory will trigger a carving feeling in order to seek a new positive experience that incorporates the element of surprise. That finally leads to the repetition of positive experiences.
The catalytic difference between the ‘’Habitual loop’’ and the ‘’Emotional - Customer Loyalty loop’’ is that we must aim in creating as many ‘’WOW’’ experiences as possible for our customers. Positive ones that surprise them and exceed their expectations (WOW experience = Expectation + 1), in order to earn their Emotional Loyalty instead of their Habitual Loyalty. And the great differentiator to achieve that goal is to constantly aim to the element of Surprise.
As you can obviously see from the following graphic, the repetition of this process for several times and our ability to positively surprise our customers (if possible) in every touch point (interaction with them), finally leads to an automatically followed routine by them; the Emotional Loyalty Loop. They are being transformed into loyal customers for our company and enthusiasts of our products and services. And, as a result, they become our ambassadors in the Market. They actually become sellers of our company by promoting it through word of mouth.
To sum up, invest more in creating positive experiences for your customers and the return for your investment will be much greater. Surprise them and you’ll be surprised!
It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back. – Seth Godin
Senior Business Consultant/Trainer/Accredited Business Coach