There’s a lot more to increasing brand loyalty than trying to entice people with attractive prices and discount programs. Consumers are far better informed than they used to be, which means you’re much less likely to earn their attention by focusing on price alone. After all, there’s a reason why brands like Apple have such fiercely loyal customers, and it’s certainly not bargain prices! What they do have, however, is a strong customer support community.
So, what really makes customers loyal to a brand?
Customer success is the new driving force behind brand loyalty
Instances of compulsive buying aside, people generally buy things with a specific purpose in mind. In other words, they want to achieve a desired outcome, and they want to minimise risk when they do so. Most of us don’t want to just throw money away on a whim, and that’s why online reviews have become such an important part of the purchase process. But, there’s still much more that happens before and after a purchase is made.
Customer success refers to the business methodology of ensuring customers achieve those desired outcomes. It focuses on things like relationships and value-adding content that help customers get more out of your products and services rather than just letting them fend for themselves the moment they’ve exchanged their payment details. Although internally driven, customer success may also incorporate processes for acting on feedback left on public platforms such as consumer review websites and social networks. It’s all about listening and learning and, in doing so, improving your product and service and exceeding the already lofty expectations of today’s customers. That’s what a great customer support community looks like.
Customer success starts with a story about a hypothetical person who represents a member of your target audience. You’ll probably have more than one of these audience personas. Each one of these personas has their own desires and/or problems. In a few sentences, you can summarise what they want to achieve and how your product or service rises to the occasion. This is the story that will form the basis of your customer success strategy and the relationships it depends on.
What is a customer support community, and why is it important
Platforms like social media, online forums and consumer review sites have opened up new opportunities for people to come together and help one another. Millions of professionals tap into LinkedIn Groups every day to exchange ideas, innovations and referrals. Customers look through support forums to find resolutions to their problems and upvote successful solutions. Buyers head straight to online review sites to make informed purchase decisions. These are all examples of interactions that fuel customer success, and they’re happening whether you like it or not. These days, it’s better for brands to own their share of the process.
Customer support community plays an increasingly important role, especially in the rapidly growing service sector where businesses need to know and understand the value of trust and support to retain clients. It’s a must-have remedy against customer churn, particularly now that customers have more options at their fingertips than ever before.
Ensuring customer success happens before and after a sale is made. Before the sale, it’s all about making informed purchase decisions with things like reviews and buyer’s guides. Afterwards, it’s about brands and customers helping other customers get more out of the product. This may happen on major public networks like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, or it might be driven by a dedicated customer support community.
Tapping into the power of user-generated content to fuel customer success
Some products and services are simply too complex and multifaceted for one support team to handle by themselves. Often, they end up being overburdened with a combination of repeated requests and problems that no one has a fix for. In such cases, the customers themselves are often the solution. Take, for example, an operating system as sophisticated as Windows. Few people actually call up Microsoft to get help, not least because nobody wants to wait in a line. Instead, they make a beeline for customer support community, one of the biggest of which is Microsoft’s very own official community. Here, users can post questions, follow discussions and share their own resolutions. This vast repository of shared knowledge only continues to grow as customers help one another solve their problems and exchange tips on getting more out of the software they rely on every day.
While regular participation from brand representatives is an imperative for any healthy brand-owned network, what really makes these communities so powerful is user-generated content. This comes down to the fact that most people like to help others, especially if they get some recognition for doing so. In some cases, the publicity can even help them grow their personal brands and boost their reputations. Indeed, in the case of the Microsoft Community, the tech giant rewards its most helpful contributors with their Most Valuable Professional (MVP) reward program. It’s only fair too, given how such members of the community are a driving force in the success of Microsoft’s customers.
Going above and beyond customer support
User-generated content and online communities aren’t just about peer-to-peer support. They can unleash insights customers can use to get more out of their purchases and companies can use to continuously improve their offer and tap into new opportunities. Perhaps one of the best examples in this case is the video game sector, in which some popular video games have become more famous for their fan-made levels and other modifications than for the original game content itself. Some games have long outlived their originally projected lifespans thanks to the communities of talented and creative individuals they’ve spawned. We can also see the same degree of innovation throughout the world of open-source software, which is, by its very definition, driven by communities.
The same can be applied to almost any industry. The Sephora Beauty Talk community, for example, provides a space where members can exchange beauty tips and ideas with a focus on the products sold by that company. Camera company Lomography provides a community where fans can showcase their works, thus earning appreciation for their creative photography efforts. Jeep fuels a sense of community by hosting annual events where the car owners can gather for fun and sociable weekends. All of these examples fuel customer success while also keeping the brand at the forefront of fans’ minds.
Customer success has many other roles beyond customer support, and they’re all driven by effective online communities. From onboarding and training for new customers to gathering and acting upon feedback to keeping people informed, these roles all help make customers’ lives better while adding tremendous value to your company. To summarise, here’s how it’s done:
- Support your members
- Instil a sense of camaraderie
- Facilitate strategic connections
- Become a source of trustworthy advice