We all want customers that return and buy more for us. Returning customers often buy more than new customers and require fewer resources to attract. So, how do you get customers to come back?
I went outside my own resources to get you an answer to that question. On a recent podcast, we hosted speaker and author Shep Hyken, one of the most influential voices in Customer Experience today. His new book, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again, has some fantastic ideas on building customer loyalty.
The idea for the book came from Hyken’s conversation with the CEO of a haircutting franchise. The CEO told Hyken that they measure the success of their Customer Experience efforts in many ways, from Customer Satisfaction feedback to Net Promoter Score®. Still, the most significant one to them was whether the customers came back again. Hyken thought it was brilliant because it measures customer behavior rather than customer sentiments.
For example, haircutting establishments have regular customers that return in varying intervals. Their goal is to make new customers or occasional customers fall into that cadence. In other words, the stores want to know that when the customer says, “I’ll be back,” they mean it—like a relentless futuristic robot sent to assassinate them. (Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but my point is made, nonetheless.)
Hyken says the most critical measurement in business has to do with “I’ll be back.” He describes customer satisfaction ratings and NPS as history lessons. In other words, they let you know how you did, but when customers return, you know how you are doing. Sure, Hyken says, you want to learn from history, make yourself better as a result, or keep doing what works, but it would help if you also focused on the future. Your actions today get you good feedback and also lay the foundation for customers coming back tomorrow.
I like this, of course, because I am always talking about the difference between what people say and what people do. Customer behavior is the best indicator of what they want. When they come back, they are getting enough of what they want to return.
Words aren’t as consistent indicators of customers being happy. One that is especially hard to interpret is “fine.” After all, how many times have you told a waiter that everything was fine when it wasn’t? For those of you who are married, how often has your partner said they were fine and meant it? In my case, it’s not every time. Hyken says “fine” is the F-bomb of Customer Experience. That’s because we know “fine” does not always mean fine.
6 Steps for Creating an I’ll-Be-Back Experience
You gain business when customers get what they want. Hyken says that customers want knowledgeable people helping them. Customers also want to talk to the right person, and they want to get to the right people quickly and without friction.
Hyken has a six-step process that organizations can use to create an I’ll-Be-Back experience for customers, which includes:
- Ask why a customer would do business with me over my competitor? Hyken says it is crucial to be specific with this answer, so it is a true differentiator.
- Consider why a customer would go to the competition instead of you? It is critical to know enough about the competitors to recognize why their customers don’t do business with you.
- Keep up the pace. Hyken says you should look at what the competition is doing that you should be doing. If they are, don’t copy it. Instead, take what they do and improve it before incorporating it into your experience.
- Discuss companies you like doing business with and why. You must open this discussion with your team to all companies, not just those in your vertical or related to your business. From Amazon to your favorite local restaurant, make a robust list of why they are in the discussion.
- Look for things on the list you could do. By looking outside your industry, you have the potential to move into a whole new level of Customer Experiences.
- Repeat step one. After some time, ask why someone would want to do business with you now instead of the competition. Then, Hyken says, you have come full circle.
As we said in a recent podcast, you mustn’t just copy industry leaders’ best practices. By doing so, you commoditize the experiences of everyone in the game. It is far better to serve the need underneath than to chase after the same goal as everyone else.
Hyken agrees, adding that watching what is happening with the competition and keeping pace does not necessarily mean copying them. For example, when taking people through the training with these six steps, one company that often surfaces in the discussion for step 4 is Amazon. One thing that people say they like is how they share information. As soon as you order, you know they received the order. Then, they email you with the shipping, and it includes tracking information. You even see a picture of it once it arrives leaning against your door. Amazon is all about sending out information and building customer confidence that they are handling it, making people feel great about doing business with them.
An organization can imitate that transfer of data even if they don’t do things as Amazon does. But that doesn’t mean they need to do it the same way—down to taking a photo of it on the front step. Instead, an organization could address the underlying need for information that customers feel. That information could come in the form of a self-serve function on the website, or an email.
Moreover, this approach with information can help when things go wrong—the more specific, proactive, and honest, the better with these situations. Everyone knows things go wrong. It’s how you respond to the problem that matters. For example, if there is a flight delay, passengers want to know what happened. It gives them a sense of control, and having that information helps them relax. When no one is talking about the problem, that’s when bad feelings begin to erupt.
I have had companies excel at handling situations like this on my behalf before. Once on a flight, the crew brought me to a private part of the plane to talk. The flight attendant told me the airline was canceling the flight and wanted to let me know first because I had so many miles with the airline. Also, the airline had already booked me on another flight and wanted to allow me to get off the plane before they told anyone else. I took them up on it, although I should tell you that many people looked like they thought I was getting arrested or something when I retrieved my bags. However, the airline was proactive and made me feel special. I felt very cared for and valued by that experience, and it created loyalty for me with the airline.
Also, it is essential to realize customers compare you to the Ritz Carlton, Disney, or (my favorite) Apple. These comparisons happen whether you are another large e-commerce site or a hot dog stand. These famous companies that do fantastic jobs in customer experience raise the bar for all experiences. Comparison is a natural by-product of this effect and one you cannot control.
There exists a difference between inertia and loyalty. Many companies think they have loyal customers, but they haven’t. Sometimes they have customers that can’t be bothered to find an alternative. Hyken says it is essential to understand if a customer is a repeat customer or a loyal customer. Loyalty usually has an emotional connotation, meaning loyal customers feel some compelling reason to return. Repeat customers often come back out of convenience. Loyal customers will stay with that organization through thick and thin, through good and bad. Convenience customers will stay too, but only until there is a better option.
Hyken thinks any company should think like the haircutting franchise company. Nothing has changed in customer service and experience. Customers come to you with a problem, and they want to buy a product or service to fix it. But, at the end of the interaction, customers want to be happy. That’s been the same since the beginning of business, and it will continue to be that way.
Something that has changed is digitization. As companies step up to create self-service options, they give customers a sense of control. Digitization allows customers to log in to an account on their website, get updated information, and even place a new order. It is moving away from human-to-human contact, which could be a bad thing. However, done the right way, it creates a better experience for the customer—as long as there’s a way back to the human whenever needed. Hyken says companies can’t automate a relationship. Still, the best companies have figured out how to balance the digitization and the automation of a customer experience with the human-to-human side of a customer experience.
Loyal customers will come back. They will come back because they love doing business with you. Whether it’s because they find your organization provides a good value for the money or they think your team is friendly and knowledgeable, or because you took care of them on a canceled flight, loyal customers will be back—and like the Terminator itself, they will never quit.
There you have it. No promotions, no gimmicks, just good information.
Think reading is for chumps? Try my podcast, The Intuitive Customer instead. We explore the many reasons why customers do what they do—and what you should do about it. Subscribe today right here.