Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Create loyalty through making it easy for customers and efficient for you
A love bug story
For those of you that know me, you know that I love Volkswagen cars. My first car was a 1978 VW beetle convertible that was school bus yellow-orange with a black top. It had a burl wood steering wheel and interior trim and had the same color yellow flower rims as the car. This car was my baby – although it left me stranded on the way to work only to have my dad rescue me on a regular basis. The Volkswagen brand is something that I have been in love with from the first time I could drive.
Now I own a dark gray 2013 Volkswagen Touareg that makes me feel like I’m driving the Batmobile with its huge tires, great steering, and fast pick-up. My favorite part of the car is the moon roof that spans the whole top of the car, which makes it feel spacious and luxurious. They don’t make the Touareg anymore, but for those in the know it is a German SUV developed together with the Porche Cayenne and Audi Q7, and shares many of the size platform and technology. Videos online show Touaregs racing and towing things, how cool is that? It is a great car, and unique. Since it’s a little old, this car is starting to need a lot of service, but I love it anyways, just like I did my bug.
Loyalty is built through brands that show customers they understand their customers' needs and take a proactive approach
What does my car history have to do with personalization and efficiency? I tell you my car stories because I am the perfect example of a loyal brand customer, that could (and has) defected from the brand. Volkswagen and the local VW dealership have opportunities to make my experience personal while being efficient for themselves. Instead, I feel a little ignored as a loyal customer, and in turn I may or may not keep buying VWs forever. Some small tweaks in the areas of personalization – to be treated as a person that they know and understand can make the experience with the brand easy and more efficient for both of us. Allow me to provide some examples.
Making it personal for customers
If the dealership was paying attention, they would see that I drive a Touareg. Touareg drivers don’t drive old cars because they are cheap (which I am), but they LOVE their cars. Why not help me keep it in great shape and check in with me about how my car is doing? Now, of course they want to sell me a new car, but as this one ages – they know it needs service.
I would love help getting that service without having to remember or take the initiative. I need help! For example, how often do the tires and wipers need to be replaced? I don’t know - when they smear stuff around and I start to go off the road? A little light came on that said that it requires a 60K mile service. Based on my driving history (which they could ask me and store in their database) I would love if they called me and said that it is getting close to the time for my service checkup, they have 3 slots ready for me to schedule, and they already have a day loaner available so that I can go shopping while I wait.
I have to drive 45 minutes to this dealership, and it is the closest one. It takes a huge part of my day, if not all day – help me make that easier by having what I want ready for me, a loaner car with car seats. I haven’t been able to schedule service on my car because I am not going to have two young boys sitting in a waiting room for hours. I don’t want a TV in the lounge, I want to make sure that the visit is a good use of my time. Based on my customer profile, they can see that I am not local and could help me make the most of my visit and could have car seats ready for me in the loaner.
The point is - organizations can use the data they already have to create relationships, proactively. If you aren’t collecting the right data points, think about how you could make the most out of a customer visit. Anticipate what the customer wants and serve it up so that it is easy to get the sale. Put yourself in the customers shoes and think about what you could do to improve their experience. By helping me execute something I don’t particularly love and want to pay for, you can create a customer for life. Why would l go anywhere else for my next car, when I know they take such good care of me and my car?
Making it efficient (for everyone)
The number one thing I hear from businesses is that they don’t have the time or staff to be able to do any personalization or proactive service. Who has time to look into the customer database and call every customer?
Personalizing the customer experience may be time consuming when you are strategizing, but once you get started it will be easier and more profitable in the long run. Plus, you won’t be spending time trying to acquire new customers but nurturing the ones you already have. You have the data on your customers, get smart about using it in a way that makes sense for both of you.
First, you want to understand what your customers want. The best way is to ASK. This could be as simple as calling customers randomly, the checkout person asking me after I pick up my car or having a conversation with me in the waiting room. Of course, there is always the follow up customer survey. How many times have we been asked to provide feedback about our visit? Is there a question in that customer survey that asks what would make the biggest difference for me in my visit next time? What digital tools could help?
The best way to understand where your gaps are and how you can personalize the experience is to ask. Customers will tell you.
Once you start to understand customer need, then you can look at the customer database and start to develop customer groups and targeting strategies in which to automate these processes. How many customers drive 45 minutes or more to get to the dealership? Can you have loaners for these customers? How many customers have kids? Do you know how old? What automations could be set up that when those 10K mile triggers go off, an email goes out to me with the 3 choices of scheduling options? Looking at the customer data and assigning customer “personas”, which are groups of people who share the same behaviors, can help you make personalization less daunting. Make your software work for you. Or, hire someone to set up emails or ping the customer digitally so that you don’t have to take your staff time to do so.
There are a lot of insights that have come through with the pandemic about the customer need for more digital solutions. This trend is only going to be more of a focus over time, as it appears this is the new way of conducting business. Understand how the customer wants to interact with you when it comes to getting service digitally, while still making it personal.
But what about the fact that I don’t have any people to help? There could be opportunity in your current labor model for this type of work. By understanding how people are spending their time, getting rid of the inefficiencies or waste, you can use that time to reallocate towards proactive customer service. Understanding what tasks your staff is doing now and restructuring their work can improve your bottom line. It also improves the top line as you can dedicate more to sales and creating customer experiences that create loyalty.
Customers don’t want to take the time to look around for someone to meet their needs. If you can show them how you bring value and how your business understands their needs as an individual, you both are more productive. And making life easier for all of us is a win/win.
Suzanne Olson is the Owner and Chief Experience Architect of Brilliant Workplaces, a consulting firm specializing in listening to customer needs, and designing experiences that build loyalty. Suzanne can help you design a strategy to keep your customers delighted and save you time. Email at Suzanne@brilliantworkplaces.com to discuss more.