Customer Trust, Customer Commitment, and Customer Recognition
Customer loyalty may be seen as elusive, an ideal that all businesses strive for but few succeed in achieving. That reflects the reality that consumers are becoming pickier about customer service in the digital age.
If you drop the ball and provide an unimpressive customer experience, then you could find your customers consider leaving.
Three aspects of the user experience play a vital role in maintaining customer loyalty: trust from your customers, a commitment to them: and recognition of their value. These can contribute toward having your customers stick by your side in good and bad times. These three areas shouldn't be thought of as mutually exclusive roles. You need to see them as components of your business that are intimately entwined. They are the threads that bind together the fabric of your customer experience.
We will unravel these threads and look at what each one consists of. Then we will twist them together into a holistic view of your customer service.
Developing customer trust
Trust is something that is developed over the long term. It involves being completely transparent and honest towards those using your product or service. Building trust is a multifaceted operation.
Talk about the risks
If your business is involved in finance and you deal with investors, don't try to hide the fact that there is uncertainty in the market. Be explicit about worst-case scenarios. That doesn't mean you take a blase approach to run your business, but you must be upfront about the risks.
Use this same approach with a product. Don't be shy in telling people about your product's limitations. Also, if you offer a service, be honest about any issues that could affect the customer.
Don't hide anything in the small print of the contract.
Trust is developed in small steps
When someone is trialing your business, they have doubts about you. These doubts are slowly erased when they have an experience that enhances the reliability of your product or service.
Over time, the more they explore what you offer and you provide the customer with an outstanding experience, the bond of trust grows.
It's a mix of rational expectations and emotions
Customers will consider your business by looking at the promises you make as well as your policies. These are purely intellectual decisions with no emotional underpinnings. That is, it's rational. Rational decision-making also considers your staff's skills and ability to provide the necessary pre-and post-sales support to the customer.
On the emotional side, customers expect that they will be treated with genuine empathy and concern. They will be listened to, and action will be taken to help them resolve their issues.
When you deliver on the customer's rational and emotional expectations, you provide them with grounds to trust you.
Make things personal
You may have hundreds or even thousands of customers. Yet, each one is a human being with emotions and feelings. If you treat everyone as a generic individual, your customers can pick up on that. They will resent being treated as just another case. If you do that, trust has been eroded.
Make your interactions with each customer personally. Use their first names, and have a friendly conversation with them. Treat them as humans and make them feel like their problem is essential to you because it is. Now you have strengthened the emotional bond of trust.
Building Customer Commitment
In respect of customer commitment, this part of your business can fall into one of five types:
- Affective Commitment
- Normative Commitment
- Economic Commitment
- Forced Commitment
- Habitual Commitment
The level of freedom a customer feels they have in choosing to do business with you separates these from one another. We touched upon building trust in the previous section. Do this affectively, and your customers will deliberately choose to stay committed to you.
Let's delve a little deeper into each type of customer commitment.
This is created when a company and a customer share similar expectations. It could be that you are environmentally conscious, and a company uses green technology. Perhaps you want overnight delivery, and the company with which you do business promises such.
It's a mutual relationship based on shared values and beliefs.
A customer decides to do business with you because of the financial rewards you offer. It could be through discounts or your rewards program. The issue with this level of commitment is that a competitor could provide more enticing offers. Now you have a customer that is contemplating jumping ship.
Forced commitment occurs because your customer sees that there is no alternative. They stay with you because they have to, not because they want to. Typical cases are when there is a monopoly in the market or a lack of viable competitors.
Your customers could be sticking around because they trust you (maybe they do, perhaps they don't). Or it may be a case of having nowhere else to go.
Humans are creatures of habit. Also, we can tend to be a bit complacent. This is where habitual commitment kicks in. We stay with a business because we have become so used to dealing with it. The idea of switching to a competitor may have crossed our minds several times, but we stick with what we know.
It's easy to carry on buying from a business we have gone to so consistently. It takes little thinking on our part. We just go into consumer auto-pilot mode.
The dangerous side of commitment
The realistic style is the ideal commitment to creating within your organization. The customers have made a personal decision to stay with you even though the market is saturated with competition.
If you find that your customers are sticking around because of few alternatives, you can become smug. You may feel that you don't have to provide a great customer experience (after all, where else can your clients go?).
However, you have a threat when a competitor pops up in your location. It could be existential if you find your customers flocking to someone who truly appreciates them. This is the main threat to businesses that operate in a forced commitment style.
Habitual types of organizations may find that their customers have finally had enough. The customer becomes motivated to make the switch. That's a reality if you don't provide fantastic customer service.
The role of customer recognition
Your customers are people. People love to be acknowledged and recognized. Make this an integral part of your customer service, and your customers will remain on board with you. It's not hard to provide recognition.
Here is how you do it:
Thank your customers for their purchases (or renewal of their subscription). Have hand-written thank you notes enclosed within your deliveries. If you use social media, do weekly shout-outs to those who have bought from you over the past week. For the more loyal customers, you can have an anniversary celebration.
Take a personal approach
We have touched upon this a few times already. That's because it's so darn important. Treat your customers as people, address them by their first name, and show empathy when they have an issue. Make this the guiding mantra of your customer service: Treat customers the way you would like to be treated.
Have a loyalty program that offers progressively greater rewards as customers remain with you. Also, run competitions. This can be done through your social media or other channels. Have a referral program in which your customers earn a percentage of the ongoing revenue from people they have introduced to your company.
Deliver amazing customer service
This should be the epitome of customer recognition. Without your customers, you have no one to serve. Show appreciation towards your customers by having impeccable customer service in place. This is an aspect of your business that needs to evolve constantly. That transformation comes via the feedback your customers provide.
Twisting together the threads
You can individually look at trust, commitment, and customer recognition. We have broken down these parts of your business and placed them under the microscope. However, they come together to form the main fabric of your business. That is, they are an integral part of your customer service.
If you don't give your customers the recognition they seek, you will struggle to build trust. Without trust, the commitment customers have toward you is limited. If it's a commitment developed due to a lack of alternatives, you risk losing out when a competitor appears in the market.
Don't think that the responsibility for these aspects of your business falls solely on the frontline staff, such as your customer service team. The role of building trust and commitment, including recognizing your customers, is something that has to be shared across all members of your business.
When you have everyone within your organization dedicated to these, you will find that your customer service is outstanding. Your customers will trust you implicitly because you treat them like the most critical thing around you - which they are.
Without your customers, you have nothing!