You understand that loyalty is important. It’s the thing that keeps people coming back. The people that share your awesomeness with others.

But an often neglected element of building loyalty is the service that’s provided to customers. A lot of focus is typically spent on cracking the dial for things that are seemingly easier to control:

  • My SEO rankings
  • My CPC
  • My CPA
  • My AOV

Here’s the catch. You can imitate the above. Your competitors can advertise on the same site, optimise the same ads, use the same CRO tools. Where they can’t compete as easily (if done right) is in the service you provide.

Why Great Service is Your Secret Weapon

Great service delivers satisfaction. It’s the differential between a trapped customer – who’s loyal as they’re in a contract, and a loyal customer – who’s loyal as you rock their world.

service to build customer loyalty

Loyalty is built from a consistent experience of excellence. Each of the steps in our customer journey is a building block of experience. From the marketing activity that got me to the site, to the product and price that gets me to buy, to the delivery that gets me the product – each of these builds or destroys the promise. The thing is, when things don’t go to plan, it’s your single biggest opportunity to destroy all the positive experiences to date, or to propel them into the loyalty stratosphere.

The service interactions you offer matter so much as they’re the promise that you’ve built along the way. Your product can be perfect, packaging incredible but if Mary can’t be bothered to speak to me about my return, then none of that matters as much. It’s Mary that’s ruined it. Damn you Mary.

If you’re able to create a service experience that is effortless, it makes me want to come back. It makes me want to tell people you’re awesome. It’s free marketing. It’s repeat business. And that is great.

5 Steps to Go From OK Service to Great

1. Build Relationships

Does this sound familiar? Make me pick from 21 options on a call menu to be transferred to someone who needs to find her colleague (Mary where are you?) to get an answer about something as she’s not sure who you spoke to before. Please hold.

service to build loyalty back

Do not approach service like this

The above is so typical, yet so damaging. This experience in and of itself ruins the relationship before it’s even started.

With so many potential touch points, centralised support systems are a must. Tools like Zendesk enable you to keep track of various interactions across various channels, meaning if I Tweet you then call, I won’t have to recite my life story 8 times before getting some help.

Consider combining information into support systems like recent purchases, as well as customer value. VIP based services for your best customers are a potential shortcut to ensure that your creme de la creme don’t have to deal with the crap de la crap.

Any customer conversation should be a continuation of the last. Whether you have a team of 2 or 200, you need to make the customer feel valued in each and every interaction. Don’t make it a chore to have a conversation, make them feel like a million bucks.

2.  A +1 Experience

No, we’re not talking about Google+ here. The concept of +1 is pretty simple, but really effective.

service to build customer loyalty

Whatever you need, I’m going to +1 it.

Need to return something as it’s faulty? I’m going to sort that and +1 it by sending you a freebie to say we’re sorry for the inconvenience.

First time customer? Let me +1 your experience with some free shipping.

Valued customer who’s had a headache with their last order? I’ll sort that out for you and +1 it with a personal phone call to apologise.

We often forget that whilst fast and effective service is a great way to deliver satisfaction, building loyalty often takes an additional step – going above and beyond to show them you care.

The +1 technique gets your team thinking about not only solving the issue, but adding something to it. When it comes to building loyalty, the unexpected +1 wins big.

3. Empowerment

One of the real killers of a great service experience is usually not Mary’s fault at all.

How much rope does Mary have? Enough to make a decision that matter? Or is she confined to pencil pushing and being the effigy of hated service for this article?

In order for you to create loyalty through service, your front line team need to have the power to be humans and that means the power to make decisions. As consumers ourselves, we can always identify with the pain that our customers are facing. Most of the time, we’ve faced it too.

If your team is forced to follow a rigid process then it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to deliver a service that makes you smile. Smiles = satisfaction = loyalty.

service satisfaction loyalty

Consider how you can empower your team to really delight in a situation. This may be that they have a discretionary budget for money off a next purchase, additional loyalty points they can offer or even the ability to send the odd bouquet of flowers.

Whatever the powers, the key is that you trust your team and encourage them to go the extra mile.

4. Feedback

How do you build more loyalty? Listen to your customers!

Service interactions are seldom used as a tool set to improve but they’re a gold mine. Take a moment to look through your email / helpdesk / twitter service interactions. Your customers are literally telling you the barriers they face to being satisfied. Solving these will help you deliver more loyalty love.

Once you’ve identified some consistent issues, It’s worth getting the relevant team around the table and working up the resolutions to these into projects. As with everything in ecommerce, this should be measured. Check the volume of issues pre and post project completion and look for a positive negative correlation – things going down.

Using post service surveys (little bit of a mouthful I know) is another good way to both garner customer feedback in a more actionable format whilst assessing the quality of the service interaction the customer had. Simple ones like NPS scores are great. Also consider asking a range of more specific questions that deliver actionable feedback for your team.

service to build customer loyalty NPS

Image courtesy of Net Promoter System

Knowing how satisfied your customers are is a good way to measure customer loyalty.

service NPS CTA

5. Preventative Support

Preventative support means you’re offering to help the customer before they need to go looking for it.

By being there right at that moment where your customer is about to go from 0 to 100 in frustration, you can really deliver a great experience and build their loyalty to your brand.

To get this to work right, you need to pick the right interaction points by looking at behaviours that are likely to create a service interaction. Once you have these identified, look at getting the customer the support they need before they go looking for it.

service to build customer loyalty chat shop

Error in your card details? Bam! – live chat agent ready to help you through. Looking for our contact details? Phone number pop up so it’s easy for you to get help. Twitter grumble? Fast response with an opportunity to get them to the right person fast.

Invest in Your Service, Invest in Your Loyalty

All too often, service is the forgotten child, with marketing taking the front row seat. Yes, it is important to get customers through your door. Creating an excellent service experience means they’ll stay.

Service should be viewed as an investment in long term growth and profitability. By building a loyal base of satisfied customers through delivering smiles, you too can leverage the benefits of loyal customers. Service is an investment, not a cost.