Making customers feel at ‘home’ with your service is key to unlocking long-term customer loyalty
(This post was written by best-selling author, and customer service and experience consultant, Micah Solomon. Read more from Micah on his customer experience-focused Forbes column.)
Whether your business exists in a physical space or not, the concept of ‘home’ is one of the most powerful ways to organize the customer experience.
The model I’m suggesting here is a particular type of home: an idyllic environment, (hopefully) like the ones your customers grew up in as kids. Where the light bulbs were automatically changed. The groceries in the fridge chosen to fit their well-known personal preferences. Where they were missed when they went to school, and welcomed back at the end of the day.
The ‘Home of a Caring Parent’
The essence of this model is personal recognition: for the customer as an individual, and for that individual’s personal preferences and known desires.
The value of this model was uncovered by a team of language experts hired by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s founder, Horst Schulze, in the early years of his organization’s existence. These linguists went through dozens of ‘verbatims’ (i.e. free-form comment fields) from guest surveys the hotel had received, in an attempt to probe deeply into what customers were hoping for.
Ultimately, it was this ‘home of a caring parent’ archetype that they ultimately decoded. And many years later, I continue to find this a highly practical model for how a business can build a customer experience that will command true loyalty.
“Your customers will let you know how to improve directly, if you just keep your ear to your electronic listening channels. This helps facilitate a quicker feedback loop for future individualized service.”
It’s true that the Ritz-Carlton discovery was made in a lower-tech era than ours today. But here’s the great thing: Technology can make ‘home-keeping’ simpler to pull off, and thus easier to reap the benefits from.
Getting It From The Source: Your Customers
For one thing, your customers will let you know how to improve directly, if you just keep your ear to your electronic listening channels. This helps facilitate a quicker feedback loop for future individualized service.
For another, well-designed ‘My Account’ pages and other self-service technologies have evolved to the point that many customers feel comfortable, and often even eager, to do some of the day-to-day ‘housework’ for you of entering (and, as needed, correcting) their preferences and other details.
It’s this individualized level of information that, in turn, makes truly personalized customer service easier to pull off. And, once you delight a customer of yours through service that’s fully focused on them, they can spread the word more quickly via social media than was ever possible in the past.
Taking What You Already Have
But besides having your customers actively tell you what they want, and how they want it, building a home for your customers can be as simple as leveraging the information you already have about them.
Whether it’s past transactions in your order management systems, or their loyalty status tracked in your loyalty management software—most companies already have the information they need to make support feel familiar.
They just need to pull all that information into something that’s actually actionable by their agents.
Turning Data into Action
Gladly was designed to put the customer back at the center of the support interaction. And what that means is that when a customer reaches out, agents don’t just see an anonymous ticket or case number.
Instead, Gladly identifies who they are (from their email address or phone number), pulls together all the key information the company already has about them, and then surfaces that to the agent to leverage.
On the same screen that they use to communicate with your customers, your agents will have an immediate, intuitive view of a customer’s loyalty status, order history, purchase preferences, and any lifetime-value metrics you’re keeping on their behalf.
This is all valuable information that agents can use to anticipate issues or make pinpointed, personalized recommendations.
“Consumers today don’t want to feel anonymous. They want the companies they buy from to know who they are. To cater to their specific needs. To be able to recommend an item, not because there’s a promotion going on. But because they know, from a customer’s previous purchases or past interactions, that this is what they truly like.”
– Joseph Ansanelli, CEO and co-founder, Gladly
Gladly also threads together, chronologically, every communication between you and the customer—whether it’s a phone call, email, SMS, social media, or even promotions sent by your marketing team. That means agents know, without having to ask, if a customer is following up on their SMS last week or reaching out over the dress they bought yesterday, even if they weren’t the agent that helped them last.
Gladly is making it their mission to help companies personalize their interactions customers—and to be able to do that personalization at scale (their customers include large enterprise companies JetBlue and TUMI). And they’re doing so with some pretty revolutionary and differentiating features.
Their ‘Dedicated Hero’ feature, for example, allows companies to assign a customer their own dedicated agent or teams, while ‘Relationships’ lets agents associate customers that frequently reach out on one another’s behalf, so it’s easier for them to do so in the future.
“We’ve entered an era where people truly value their identity and individuality,” according to Gladly co-founder and CEO, Joseph Ansanelli. “Consumers today don’t want to feel anonymous. They want the companies they buy from to know who they are. To cater to their specific needs. To be able to recommend an item, not because there’s a promotion going on. But because they know, from a customer’s previous purchases or past interactions, that this is what they truly like.”
With Gladly, agents already know what the customer has previously shared with them—just like Mom or Dad (at least a mom and dad who are paying attention) already know that you hate mushrooms and love Panic! At the Disco. A Gladly-equipped agent will know that you’re worried about a shipment that hasn’t arrived, that you hate the glare from a window seat on a plane, that your shoes are a Size 10 but a very narrow Size 10, or whatever your detailed personal preferences may be.
Overall, the kind of support you are striving to provide is one that makes a customer feel like much more than a ticket, much more than a string of order numbers. Do this, and you will build not only satisfied customers but, ultimately, true brand ambassadors who will spread word of your great service and stellar organization far and wide.
Your customers are talking—Are you listening?
Get the 2019 Customer Expectations Report to see what it is your customers want from customer service.Download the Report