To improve customer loyalty, the best brands are listening

To improve customer loyalty, the best brands are listening
Dec 11, 2019
If you want to take your brand loyalty program to the next level, you need to be customer-obsessed—and that starts with listening.

It happens all the time. Someone asks you a question and you can tell they’re not really listening to your answer. Instead they’re waiting for a chance to turn the conversation back to their thing, whatever it is. They’re completely in their own head—how can this person help me get what I need?—and not at all interested in you.

Brands can be guilty of this behavior, too. Focusing too much on product promotions or next best offer can lead to a myopic view of the consumer-brand relationship. And being nearsighted is a quick way to lose sight of your most loyal customers. The way to keep them? First, listen carefully, and then act on what you learn. Here are three ways the best brands show customers that they’re listening – and in turn, win the hearts of their customers.

Collect feedback from everyone

Today’s customers expect to have an active voice in the design and delivery of their favorite brands, whether through loyalty program benefits, community impact, or next generation services or products.

It’s important to cast a wide net to collect feedback from as many members (and non-members) as possible. While it may be tempting to lean on your most loyal members for feedback, you should also ask questions of your less frequent members and even those who complain loudly. Approach them with an open mind and listen to what they have to say.

  • Focus groups: Set up focus groups with people who aren’t enrolled in your loyalty program and find out why they’re not signed up. What do they value that your program fails to offer? What could you do to make the program worthwhile to them? When you collect feedback from everyone, you’ll find rich insights across the spectrum that just may lead to your next big idea.
  • Social listening: Use social listening to discover where you’re doing well—and where you might not be living up to expectations. Identify key themes and categories based on online reviews or social chatter, and then determine how you can address them.
  • Surveys: Take advantage of online and onsite surveys to obtain immediate feedback from customers while their experience is still fresh in their minds. Through online tools, you can quickly adapt and target your questions based on customer segment or geography.

In addition to the people you poll, the questions you ask should be broad. Don’t be too focused on a specific interaction. Ask them what they care about, who else they shop with, the types of brands they like, etc. The way you craft your questions tells your customers how much you care about their holistic experience, and a customer-obsessed set of questions signals that you intend to be a good listener.

Take action by solving for pain points—even those beyond your brand

The feedback you collect is only as good as your ability to act on it. And exceptional brands take a holistic view of customers and their experiences—even those that seemingly have nothing to do with your brand.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are the pain points our customers face at every brand touchpoint?
  • What happens before and after their experience with us?
  • How can we solve for those peripheral pains in a meaningful way?

Hilton demonstrates their commitment to this principle by mining customer feedback to find pain points and customer needs that span the entirety of customers’ travel journey, and even other parts of their lives. The result? A partnership with Lyft, which not only provides hotel guests a seamless way of getting to and from Hilton properties, but also offers an opportunity for less frequent travelers to take advantage of the Hilton Honors program. Similarly, Hilton has expanded its partner network to include Live Nation, Amazon, and American Express to engage more members (they just surpassed 100 million members!), more often, and deliver more value.

Make an emotional connection

All good listening comes from a place of empathy. When brands take the time to make an authentic emotional connection with their customers—which can only happen when they’re paying attention to what their customers want and need—customers feel it. Think about the feeling you get when the hotel staff hands you a warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in, or when you earn points at DSW for donating your gently used shoes.

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“Emotional connections drive loyal behavior.”

– Emily Collins, principal analyst, Forrester Research on our recent webinar

It’s those feelings that drive loyalty: In “The US Customer Experience Index, 2019,” Forrester Research reports that, in multi-channel retail, among customers who feel valued, 90% plan to stay with the brand, 87% plan to increase their spending with the brand, and 90% will advocate on behalf of the brand.

Brands with cult followings have figured out how to create the perfect emotional experience at the perfect time for their customers, again and again. Take Sephora’s Beauty Insider program, for example. Beyond its points structure, the company builds relationships through its Beauty Insider community, where members can join groups, follow topics, and connect with one another to share advice, beauty inspiration, and product reviews. They also offer members personalized experiences, like custom makeovers, community meetups, and exclusive member events. As a result, Sephora engages new and seasoned Beauty Insiders alike in trying new items and continuing to purchase their tried and true products.

Watch the on-demand webinar, “Purpose + participation: Building better customer loyalty” to hear guest presenters from Forrester Research and Hilton discuss strategies for earning customer loyalty.

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