I’m making a declaration: You can’t hack customer loyalty.
There are no shortcuts or growth hacks or magic incense you can burn that will convert masses of people into raving evangelists for a brand.
Even a great product or service isn’t enough. Loyalty programs offer no guarantees, nor does gamification or an incredible mobile experience.
All of those can move the dial, but loyalty is a very personal, almost intimate concept. What it looks like will vary from person to person. I maintain a massive collection of stats that have been gathered on the topic of customer loyalty, and the motivations people give for being loyal are all across the board. Some people prefer brands that are socially or environmentally responsible, while others evaluate a brand solely on pricing and value.
Loyalty isn’t like it used to be. We judge brands on different criteria than they did back in the day because we live in a different economy, and we’re exposed to so much more information and competition for our dollars. There’s a lot out there on which we can evaluate a brand, and our attention spans are fleeting. Our loyalty can be won in a heartbeat. It can also be lost just as quickly.
Of all the factors that sway and move us, few have as strong an effect as direct interaction with a representative of a brand.
The secret, critical key to customer loyalty is sitting in your workplace right now. It’s your employees.
The effects of bad service and disengaged employees
American Express research shows that nearly 80 percent of consumers have bailed on a purchase because of a bad service experience. After pricing, service experiences are usually cited as the top reason people switch brands, including 56 percent of Millennials, according to Aspect Software.
Conversely, 89 percent of consumers say a good service experience brings on good vibes about the brands they interact with, according to Verint.
It goes deeper than just frontline, public-facing employees however. A 2013 study by Demand Metric showed that most companies who have over 50 percent engaged employees will retain over 80 percent of their customers.
With so many clear correlations between employee engagement and customer engagement, you’d think that companies would be doing everything possible to engage, retain and develop their employees. Yet according to the most recent data, only around a third of employees are engaged. Even worse, about 17 percent of employees are actively disengaged—as in, they’re undermining the success of the business and sabotaging the morale of those around them.
The more a company takes care of its employees, the more those employees will take care of their customers. It’s often overlooked, because employee engagement is easy to take for granted. It should be enough that people get a paycheck and some benefits, right?
That may have been true once upon a time, but today a paycheck alone isn’t enough to bring out the best in an employee. Creating an environment of engagement can be difficult, but it has a clear correlation to customer loyalty, which brings in more transactions and higher revenue.
Here are three guidelines to keep in mind as you seek to enhance engagement and loyalty on both the customer and employee fronts:
- Invest in a great workplace. Have competitive benefits and generous perks. Treat people like humans, not robots. Allow people to become incredible at what they do, and give everyone the opportunity to advance—especially the frontline, underpaid employees.
- Establish values that you want your brand to be known for, and only hire people who embody those values, even if they’re not as qualified. You can develop ability, but attitude is hard to shift. Similarly, it’s important to find your actively disengaged employees and turn them around, or send them on their way.
- Keep your other loyalty-building efforts going. Yes, employee engagement can make or break customer loyalty with a swiftness, but like I said at the top—this is an area that doesn’t have a simple hack or solution. Loyalty programs, rewards, incentives, promotions and similar tactics are all important, viable investments. But organizations should realize that all of those efforts can go for naught if their own employees aren’t bought in.
Employees are the ones who embody a brand, from the executives all the way down to the people who empty the trash bins after everyone leaves. When they’re passionate about what they do and the role they play in the brand, it’ll naturally result in better products, services, and experiences for customers.
It won’t guarantee loyalty, but you’ll be in the right place for loyalty to happen.
This article was written by Brandon Carter from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.