With Valentine’s Day just round the corner, Michael Hegelund, 3 times 30 under 40 Loyalty Royalty and multiple Loyalty Magazine Award winner shines a romantic light on relationships.
In life, a long-lasting personal relationship is the ultimate form of loyalty. You give and take, but you and your partner manage to stick. In business, loyalty is somewhat the same. Here, we want the customer to keep doing business with our company and brand.
To start the relationship, you need to make a good impression. If it is good enough, you might get the first date. With this, you have then given your prospect a promise and some expectations that you need to live up to on the actual date. In business this would be your brand promise to the customers. And it is the first make or break.
Then, you go meet up and it is now that you need to deliver on your promise. Maybe not on every part of it, but at least on the central aspects of it. The tricky part here is that your current date might value other parts of your promise to your previous date, so there will not be a one size fits all. But delivering on your promise will take you a long way. In business this is the brand experience. Your customer loyalty will suffer if there are negative gaps between the brand promise and the brand experience.
If you made a great promise and the experience is great as well, this might then be the time when your date considers making it more serious with you and therefore will start researching more about you. This means checking you out on social media, checking out your friends, talking to your mutual relations and so on. In business, this is when your potential customer starts reading reviews about your company, researching on your value chainand other stuff to learn if you can be trusted.
If in the end it turns out that you were not the partner for life, then you might end up friending your date. Maybe you had some super skills that you date admired like strong tennis strokes or humour. But just not the whole package. In business, this could be that your potential customer wants to use your value adding app or follow your funny Facebook page, but that your overall offering is just not right. You can use these value add-onsto attract customers, but in the end your core identity is what should build the relationship.
In the positive scenario, you started a relationship with your date. And this is then when the true loyalty work starts. In a personal relationship this is not about giving flowers. It is about paying attention, listening to all signals, and then acting in a way in which you are true to yourself, while at the same time proving to be the loving person that your partner wants to spend forever with. This is the same in business. You need to stay true to your core and cannot pretend to be something you are not.
Listen, or you will never get loyal customers!
Listen to your current and potential customers. They hold the answer to many of your questions. They might not know it, but there are a tremendous among of signals in their behavior both in terms of what they do and what they do not do. Listen to them, and act accordingly. Listening comes in many forms. That could by sending out surveys, reading customer online review or simply asking your customers on social media.
Make every touchpoint count!
In the loyalty business, you are in the
business of creating great customer experiences. A customer’s experience is the sum of every positive or negative stimuli that he or she processes when meeting your brand in one of your touchpoints. Every touchpoint counts, but not every touchpoint counts the same. Touchpoints can be things like your homepage, your physical stores, your parking space, your loyalty program, and your employees, but also stuff like people talking about your brand on social media and people writing reviews. It matters little that you have an amazing product, if you customer cannot find a parking space, your homepage is not working, or your customer service is lacking. Therefore, a good starting point in creating more loyal customers would be to conduct a touchpoint analysis across paid, owned and earned media. This analysis should give you the overview needed to 1) see if you are using the right touchpoints or need to add more, and 2) improve the customer experience in each touchpoint.
Data, permission, and personalization!
With the overview on your touchpoints completed, you can start pulling data out of them, and thereby get insights on which customers matter the most and where to focus. In this step, I recommend that you try to convert your touchpoints into permissions. That could be by converting a homepage visitor into a signup for your loyalty program, your e-mail database or similar, which would then lay the foundation for you to build more personalized relationships. A requirement here is that you get your data approach properly in place, so that the customer interaction via one touchpoint will trigger a personalized experience in his or her next touchpoint. By using data this way, you can use different parts of your core business to identify and connect with different customers in a personalized way which will have the biggest positive impact on your business relationship, while at the same time staying true to your brand.
We are about to become more personal! And digital.
One of the biggest ever world-changing events is going on right now. Before COVID-19, you might have met your date at a party or at a café. That was the true personal experience. Or was it? Here, you showed only parts of who you really are. With COVID-19 you are forced to show other parts of yourself. The Zoom screen may show the mess in your apartment when you are having the virtual date. Or accepting that your date will do more research about you online. For people and businesses, COVID-19 means that we might start showing new sides of ourselves. As a business your digital presence may not previously have had priority. Now this touchpoint suddenly matters more. Dos your homepage load quickly? Is the navigation working? It has become much harder to hide your weaknesses. And digitalization and e-commerce should be on your agenda both for now and for the years to come.
You are not alone!
In the dating game, you might give a good impression, but you will still lose if others do better. And that is the same in the business would. It is not enough to compare your offering to your own industry. Customers measure you against the best in the world. Experience with one brand thereby becomes the expectation for all other brands. That means that good is no longer enough. You need exceptional basics and to deliver a frictionless end-to-end experience. Also, make sure your business is strong across the whole value chain. One weak link is one too many.
We all make mistakes!
That goes for us as human beings as well as for businesses. How you handle your mistakes determines how strong relations you can build. If in business, you manage to turn a bad experience into a good one by reacting swiftly and correcting the bad one, then this might become a really strong experience that will impact your customer loyalty with the actual customer acting as an ambassador for your company.
The little extra something!
In a world with hard competition and strong basics, you need to deliver something extra. This can be by building value adding services around your business such as a loyalty program. With products becoming more and more equal and of high quality, a loyalty program can be the extra nudge that gives your business the upper hand.
Catching up on the steps
1) Start with you brand promise and your brand experience to find and close gaps
2) Stay true to your core identity
3) Design and optimize your value proposition and touchpoints
4) Collect and use data to deliver personalized experiences to your customers
5) Ramp up on digital and e-commerce
6) Focus on your value chain
7) Build strong customer experiences
8) Design the right loyalty program for your business
9) Keep dating and learning
10) Long-lasting relationships do exist
Michael Heglend is based in Denmark. He funded his first company in 2003 and has worked in the e-commerce, digital, marketing and loyalty space since then for companies including consumer packaged goods (Arla Foods), retail & e-commerce (Lidl & Salling Group), travel (TravelCo Nordic) and consulting (own performance agency).
Michael’s history and achievements with The Loyalty Magazine goes back many years:
2020: The Loyalty Magazine Awards winner – 30 under 40 (Rising stars)
2019: The Loyalty Magazine Awards winner – 30 under 40 (Rising stars)
2018: The Loyalty Magazine Awards winner – 30 under 40 (Rising stars)
2019: The Loyalty Magazine Awards – Best Short Term Loyalty Initiative
2018: The Loyalty Magazine Awards winner – Best Coupon/Voucher Based Loyalty Programme of the Year
2016: The Loyalty Magazine Awards winner – Best Coupon/Voucher Based Loyalty Programme of the Year
2015: The Loyalty Awards winner – Best Short Term Loyalty Programme
2014: The Loyalty Awards winner – Best Short Term Loyalty Programme