Leaders in their field don’t necessarily have to be wild pioneers, but they do have to have a history of being loved and trusted. Turning your customers into brand ambassadors is going to require what any great relationship requires: a superior level of other-consciousness and willingness to listen. It’s about leading the way in service and real human connection.
Make Your Customers into Brand Ambassadors
Your customers like you. But what takes the relationship to the next level? It’s really not mysterious. Going from “They do a good job” to “I LOVE them!” depends on two things: whether you really care to understand your clients, and whether they know the unique value you bring.
First, ask yourself whether you offer anything customers cannot find anywhere else. Are you crystal-clear on what’s unique to you? If so, be sure you identify, remember, and communicate it constantly. Next look at customer service, and your ability to anticipate needs. Where your understanding of your customer’s needs intersects with your particular identity and mission–that’s your sweet spot for building relationships. Try offering perks for online surveys. Conduct customer satisfaction calls and reward feedback with gift cards or discounts. Get their voices in your ear. And think ahead for your clients. When your company goes through a change, for example, put your best minds and reps to work on how to be open, understand client concerns, and anticipate bumps in the road. An attentive “What can I do for you?” combines with an accurate “I know just how we can help,” and you’ve got a companion for life.
When it comes to who you are and what you can do uniquely as a business, always celebrate, never exaggerate. Like the mom told her kid in middle school in 1998, don’t wear Gap jeans just so the other kids will like you. Definitely wear what flatters you, so to speak. Speak up about your track record, certifications, and your knockout strategy for exceeding expectations. But stick to that sweet spot. Brag “in character,” about what you’ve proven you can do. But if you attract people to a false image, they will eventually see through it, and then you’ll be in a marketing pickle. If you encounter a need you can’t meet and are authentic about your limitations as well as your gifts, people will respect that, and will even work around you when need be. Loyalty is primarily based on your relationship with the client, not your great work. Even when you make mistakes, people maintain relationships out of loyalty because they want to see you succeed and know that you will. They may even give you a platform for taking new or adventurous risks.
Check in with your employees
Employees are the most powerful brand ambassadors–even brand evangelists–when, like customers, they are in tune with mission and their needs are understood. Not all of us have a Leslie Knope-like glee about our work on every given day. But undergirding the tough days should be a sense that “we’re here doing good, and we’re in this together.” Schedule interviews with your staff, from top to bottom, serve them a good cup of coffee or tea, and just check in. Bring in cupcakes or a fruit basket. Have a Secret Santa week. It’s not about cheer-up gimmicks. It’s sincere move to make sure employees feel they are honestly participating in a cohesive and winsome corporate identity. Where are they being helped–and not being helped–to play to their strengths, connect to others, and do their work with enthusiasm? Can they live out company culture with integrity? They will likely have ideas for ways they can be made to feel more at home and fired up about what they do. Really listen. And take action where need be.
Take care of customers on the way out
There are many reasons your time with a customer may need to end or go on hiatus. They may only need your services temporarily. You may be on the cusp of a merger or acquisition that changes your corporate identity to a significant extent. Whatever the reason, saying goodbye to a customer is just as important as saying hello. Being wooed in and then forgotten as soon as you’re out the door (or being ushered out briskly!) can have a significant “ouch” factor. Make sure customers heading for the exit are being personally guided through the process and in touch with a rep. Always be kind and express willingness to learn if mistakes were made. Welcome them back when appropriate, and follow up. Encourage them to leave feedback on Yelp, and consider putting a service rep on the job of responding to online comments. This solidifies personal connections and shows you’re alert to others from beginning to end.
In fact, if you have handled yourself throughout a relationship with integrity and honesty, being clear about your goals, customer-oriented, willing to listen, and in tune with your mission, it may be that you can leave an excellent impression even on those with whom a relationship was particularly difficult. You may even get referrals from those who ultimately did not choose to employ your services. If you have put yourself top of mind and top of class, a departing customer will think of your name and connect you to new clients.
For some of your clients, a relationship with you will be love at first sight. Others will look back and say, “They had me at goodbye.” Whenever it clicks, customers become ambassadors for brands whose integrity they trust.