Try to count the methods companies use to generate customer loyalty, and you'll quickly run out of fingers. And toes. And the fingers and toes of your friends and family. A quick glance at our collection of loyalty statistics shows that companies are attempting a variety of tactics, and customers are lapping it up - if not necessarily always returning their loyalty.
Points and miles, punch cards, gamification, discount programs, insider clubs...brands have become incredibly creative in trying to capture the elusive hearts and minds of customers, with decent results most of the time. If a loyal customer is so much more valuable than trying to pull in new ones, then it's very much worthwhile to invest in any idea that can bring a customer back.
Which is why it's so mind-boggling that many companies are overlooking the small stuff that has a direct impact on a customer's perception of the brand. Specifically, there's one area where many brands are simply not doing enough.
Customer complaints via social media are surging, as are customer expectations. According to Neilsen's 2012 Social Media Report, 50% of social media users are using the medium to air their grievances about companies. Facebook alone has 1.4 billion users, so that means 700 million people are complaining about businesses on that network alone. According to Jay Baer, 32% of these customers expect a response within 30 minutes; 42% expect one within an hour.
Customer service should be the low hanging fruit of the loyalty world. It's essentially customers asking you to show them just how much you value them by fixing their problems. In the powerful social media realm, where all of their friends and the public can eavesdrop, these customers complaints are merely dropping from the tree all too often.
Only 36% of these issues are being addressed quickly and effectively, according to data from NM Insight. That's the equivalent of ignoring a third of the calls to your contact center, or a third of the customers standing in line at your service kiosk. Only on social media, all of their friends are there, watching.
Time to Start Paying Attention
The shift to social media by the consumer, and the way they interact with brands and other consumers within it, should cause us all to reconsider how we approach them online.
They want to be responded to, not marketed to. They want brands to offer them something, not sell them something.
It's time for every business to get up to date on social media monitoring and messaging. Even if you don't have a sophisticated customer response operation, consider these four simple steps:
Be aware when complaints happen - Most social platforms offer email alerts for when someone mentions you, comments on a post, or tags your brand in an update. If that doesn't work for you, check out IFTTT, which can trigger everything from push notifications to changing the colors of the lights in your home when someone mentions your brand online.
Respond quickly - NM Incite's data said that 71% of consumers who experience a quick and effective brand response are likely to recommend that brand to others. Social media is a 24/7/365 operation, so be prepared to respond around the clock.
Take it offline - Offer a person for the customer to contact. Not an 800 number or a general email - give them a person to speak with who knows the situation.
Make it right - See the 71% stat in #2. It's not just about the lifetime value of one customer; it's their entire network on the line as well. That's worth investing in.
By taking care of the little things, such as social customer service, your brand will be in much better position to sustain and retain customers for years to come. After all, it's those little things that can have BIG impacts on customer perception.
Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter