Customers who love brands are more loyal – and must be loved back
Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day approaching and as we all know, love is a many-splendored thing. Arguably the most intense of the human emotions, love is one that we experience in relationships, friendships, happiness and sadness. Love can be for an individual, but also a time, place, idea or even product.
For customer experience management brands, it’s perhaps the most important aspect of their day-to-day practices. Customers have to love the brands they interact with, or they might not come back. In turn, brands should express love towards their customers, making sure that they’re motivated to deliver the best possible experience. In a sense, love should form the under-pinning of every organisation's customer experience strategy.
To that end, Nunwood has identified six principles that leading brands consistently master. The very best brands excel in all of these pillars, and have built up loyal customer bases as a result of their hard work. The Six Pillar benefits aren’t confined to one business sector. Instead, they’ve been validated across multiple industries. They are: Empathy, Personalisation, Integrity, Expectations, Resolution, and Time and Effort
Adopting the Six Pillars into best practice
Arguably, one of the most important pillars to master is Empathy. It requires companies to build up rapports with their customers, to see things from their perspective and act accordingly. first direct is currently leading the way in this area – topping the CEE rankings with an Empathy score of 7.98. Rather than being a distant financial organisation, its employees are adept at putting themselves in the customers’ shoes when helping to resolve issues. One customer, for example, was grateful for the empathy on display when they requested an emergency overdraft, following the hospitalisation of an ill family member.
Similarly to Empathy, the pillar of Personalisation should also play a key part in a brand's customer experience strategy. This pillar is about tailoring the experience to the needs and circumstances of the individual, whether making product recommendations based on in-store conversations, or providing custom delivery times for ordered packages. The current UK leader in this pillar is Amazon, scoring an excellent 8.72 for Personalisation. Using a customer’s name, showing their history, reacting to preferences with relevant and often desired recommendations helps Amazon to stand out.
Of course, these virtues would amount to nothing if there was no trust between the brand and the customer. That’s why the pillar of Integrity is included among the six. It requires brands to demonstrate that they’re acting in the customers' best interests at all times, in a reliable and upright manner. After all, if a customer had no trust for an organisation, there would be little chance of them 'falling in love' with it. One of the best organisations for this pillar is the retailer John Lewis, with an Integrity score of 8.42. Many customers have commented that, even though product recommendations are freely given, there’s never any pressure for them to make a purchase. This helps the shoppers to feel as if the brand genuinely has their best interests at heart.
Next we have the pillar of Expectations. Everybody has expectations from a relationship, be it in a loving marriage, or between a customer and, say, their energy provider. Often, these expectations are laid-out in the brand's own promises. The online retailer QVC, for example, is so-named because of its dedication to delivering Quality, Value and Convenience. And it's successful in living up to these high standards; the brand currently has an Expectations score of 7.88.
Difficult times will occur throughout any relationship, and this is when the pillar of Resolution comes to the fore. It’s important for any brand to incorporate issue resolution when planning its customer experience strategy. The pillar of Resolution requires organisations to take ownership of problems, even if they’re not necessarily the brand's fault. A degree of flexibility should also be afforded to the organisation's employees, allowing them to occasionally step outside 'the rules' to resolve issues quickly. Ritz Carlton empower their staff to resolve customer issues with a budget of up to $2000 per customer. This ensures any concerns are quickly resolved and, for Ritz Carlton, the customer is frequently delighted, not just satisfied, with the outcome.
Time and Effort
This in turn emphasises the importance of the pillar of Time and Effort. If a brand can demonstrate that it can deliver a speedy experience in an efficient manner, then the customer will love it forever. This is a particularly important pillar among supermarket brands, who have become commensurately competitive since the arrival of low-cost retailers Aldi and Lidl. However, the current grocery retail customer experience management leader is Waitrose, which scores a very impressive 8.59 in the pillar of Time and Effort. Waitrose refer to their employees as ‘partners’, they all have a say in the company’s decisions and are entitled to bonuses based on the company’s financial performance. This encourages the employees to care more about providing positive customer experiences as they will also feel the benefit.
Adherence to all Six Pillars, therefore, is essential for brands to earn the love of their customers.
"Strong performance across The Six Pillar SystemTM is shown to increase acquisition via advocacy, create long-term shareholder value, and guarantee a market-leading customer experience ranking. The Six Pillars provide strategy lessons from the world’s best leadership teams, helping brands to design a customer experience strategy that ensures success across all aspects of customer experience management.