In the world of customer service, says bestselling customer service author and acclaimed speaker Shep Hyken, only one statistic matters: Does the customer come back. “Customer loyalty is not about a lifetime,” he notes. “It’s about the next time…Every time!” I caught up with Shep recently to chat about customers, service, and the communications industry.
Shep Hyken - How To Deliver Amazing Customer Service
Q: Tell me about customer loyalty today. How do companies gain it? Keep it?
The best way to maintain customer loyalty is by offering a product that does what it is supposed to do, and by offering support that makes a good experience for the customer. Realistically, the customer does not want to contact you, but when they do, you want to assure them that they made the right decision in choosing your product or service.
We need to stop thinking about just the lifetime of the customer and start thinking about the loyalty of the customer. Loyalty comes from trust, so you want to let the customer know that they can count on you. Always have the customer loyalty question in mind: "What am I doing right now to get that customer to come back next time?". The number that counts most is the one that tells you if your customer came back.
Q: How do global companies establish a sense of community with their customers?
Do local well. This is where a lot of large global companies struggle. The most important thing you can do is to get involved on a local level. By getting engaged in the community, being charitable, and sponsoring local events and organizations, you can evoke trust in your customers which will lead to a strong sense of community and ultimately a loyal customer base.
Q: Would contact centers benefit from being more interactive and self-service based?
Definitely, yes. There is a self-service demographic coming up. For example, college kids today don't want to pick up the phone to order a pizza--they'd rather order it online, but they will call if they have to. The next generation, the self-service generation, won't pick up the phone at all. You have to make it easy, painless, and intuitive for your customers to purchase your product. It is important to make sure that you are present on all channels that your customers are, and make self-service an option as long as it is the better option.
Another example: when airlines first began using online purchasing, their customers did not participate because they didn't want to take the time to learn how. So, air carriers decided to train their customers to use online purchasing by offering incentives to those who used it to buy their plane tickets. Eventually, airlines didn't have to bribe people to buy tickets online because the customers themselves realized it was the better option.
Q: What advice do you have for communications providers looking to evolve their customer experience?
The future is about utilizing technology to be increasingly proactive rather than reactive.
OnStar, for example, gets this and has harnessed technology to make it happen. If you are driving down the street and hit a pothole that puts your car out of alignment, OnStar will send a notification to your car company to alert you to bring it in and fix it.
OnStar is offering solutions to a problem before you even take action to solve it. That is what communications service providers need to do. Use technology to find the problem before the customer does. The problem should repair itself so the customer does not have to call support. If the problem cannot fix itself automatically, then you should call the customer before they are forced to call you. If the problem still can't be solved that way, then you explore more personalized options until the problem is solved--but the first option is always the best option.
Shep Hyken is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, the creator of an outstanding customer service training program, and a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame. He has worked with America Airlines, AT&T, and America Express (just to name a few) to help these leading brands better customer and employee relationships. Follow him on Twitter or visit his website.