We’re in the middle of football season, and you can sense it everywhere you go. From cars decked out in flags and stickers, to sports bars full of fans wearing bright colors, it’s the season when the fans come out–people who plan for the season all year, have a closet full of gear, and just plain love their teams.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your clients and customers were as excited as these sports fans?
A fan is someone with an intense, occasionally overwhelming enthusiasm, be it for a sporting club, person (usually a celebrity), group, company, product, activity, work of art, idea, or trend. True brand fans will stick with you, even after a bad season, while everyday customers come and go. In today’s connected world, our customers and fans are more powerful and visible than ever. It’s critical that you turn your customers into fans and then keep them happy and engaged. How do you go about doing that? Follow the leaders.
My company works with big brands to make their products and services more customer-centric. In talking with consumers about what makes them fans of certain companies, we find that great leaders do two simple things:
1. They do right when they’ve done wrong.
2. They delight their customers.
Companies that “do right and delight” include some of my favorite brands: Apple, Target, Starbucks, and Amazon. These companies understand that it takes doing the right thing at all levels, and then doing something a little extra, to create real fans. Following these two simple rules can change your bottom line by turning your customers into die-hard fans. Based on my own personal experience, here are five steps to convert your customers into fans:
1. When It’s Hot, Stay Cool. Repeat.
A customer was continually bothering a waiter. First, he asked that the air conditioner be turned up because he was too hot. Then, he wanted it turned down because he was too cold. This went on for more than an hour. The waiter was very patient, and never once got angry. Finally, a second customer asked the waiter why he didn’t just throw out the pest. “Oh, I don’t mind,” said the smiling waiter. “We don’t even have an air conditioner.”
This is only a slight exaggeration from the daily customer interactions for many service-oriented organizations. The waiter is listening without losing his cool. That customer feels as though his problem was being addressed and will leave the restaurant satisfied that he was well taken care of by the staff.
2. Fix, Solve And Make it Painless
When I bought my last laptop, the wireless card wasn’t working at full strength. I took the computer to the Apple Store and was told by technicians that they would have to keep the machine in order to diagnose the problem. I was bummed, but promptly secured my teenage daughter’s laptop to keep up with work.
Three days later, and after countless inquiries over my Twilight desktop background, the tech guy called to inform me that he’d tried everything, but couldn’t fix it and would have to replace the computer. I was skeptical because most of the time this kind of news does not work in the consumer’s favor. However, when I arrived, he had not only transferred all the data from my old laptop, he had also upgraded me to the most recent model of the computer, all the while apologizing profusely.
Apple not only solved my problem, it made it quite painless. I walked away cheerfully with my new MacBook, and I’ve told this story again and again. I was a customer because I loved Apple's machines, but that day I became a complete fan.
When you not only solve customers’ problems, but also make it painless, they become fans. Remember: Fans tell everyone about the things they love. Also remember: Disappointed customers will tell everyone about their bad experiences. Which would you prefer?
3. Listen, Engage, And Act
Your customers and fans and everyone in between are online. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Foursquare, GetGlue, and now Pinterest, just to name a few. And they’re not just consuming content--they’re creating it through blogging, uploading videos and pictures, pinning, tagging, checking in, and chatting. They are talking authentically with one another about you, your brand, and your products. With social media, how you respond to what they say can be the difference between netting more fans or losing the game entirely.
Late one evening, I was watching a football game when my cable began cutting in and out. I tweeted that I was having a problem; within minutes, someone from Comcast was working on it. On a Saturday night, the customer care team remotely reset my cable service and rectified the problem. I was totally impressed. This type of active listening and response to social media mentions can propel your company ahead of your competitors.
4. Be Delightful
Anyone who knows me for more than a minute knows that I love Starbucks. My 50-plus collection of Starbucks city mugs in my office might give it away. Or the fact that I spend most of the morning carrying around a Venti dark roast, or that I am probably inviting you to a meeting at a local Starbucks to talk through a business deal or work on a new initiative.
Although I love Starbucks for its coffee, I am a fan because of its unending desire to delight me. Its employees strive to remember me by my drink every morning and, should the smallest thing go awry, the drink is on them or they will give me a coupon for a free drink at my next visit. Starbucks definitely looks beyond the one-time sale. It wants its customers to be avid fans.
5. Follow Up
We’ve all experienced the follow-up survey--an automated call or the survey they hand you right after the transaction, when you feel compelled to complete it positively rather than submitting your true feedback. Whenever I take my car into the shop and I candidly mark some items as less than “excellent,” you can tell that the manager is focused on the rating rather than the underlying problem. I find this frequently when I have my car serviced, and it doesn’t make me a fan.
On the positive side of customer follow up, I am a fan of boutique hotels. Why? Because I find that more often than not, I receive a friendly and earnest call from someone at the hotel asking about different aspects of my stay. I can give them my feedback, and I feel like they actually care and will take those recommendations into account for future guests. In fact, I feel like I’m helping them out, almost like I’d help a friend.
I work in the business of customer feedback, and like everyone else, I want my feedback to be acknowledged and for proper follow up to be made when needed. When you earnestly seek your customers’ feedback, they will not only give it, but they will feel valued and more loyal to you for it. Suddenly, they’re investing in you, and you in them. You’re building a relationship and a future fan.
So, as you watch those football games, I challenge you: Think about how you can make organizationwide changes by listening, engaging, giving great service, and having conversations with your customers. I bet you will find that your customers are moved from the customer level to being true fans.