With so much competition in the online space, the idea of brand loyalty is diminishing -- meaning brands must start going above and beyond if they want to build a long-term relationship with customers.

And the data shows that building this relationship is well worth the time, money and effort. The "80-20 rule" is applicable for most retailers, meaning that on average, 20% of your customers provide 80% of your total sales revenue.

So what's the secret to delighting and retaining customers during the buyer's journey, from the time they click on your site to the post-conversion process? Here are four places to start.

How to Turn Exceptional Customer Service into Long-Term Success For Your Business

1) Provide multichannel customer service.

Today's consumers don't often begin and end their buying experience on the same platform, or even the same device. They may begin searching for a product on their mobile phone on Amazon, then move to their desktop to checkout on your website. Or, perhaps they see a Pinterest post, then click to be taken to a Facebook Shopping post on your branded page.

The possibilities are endless -- but you still must ensure you're everywhere your customers need you to be. Often, this means you'll need to incorporate some form of automation in order to deliver a customer service strategy that is scalable and allows you to manage internal resources.

Regardless of the size of your business, it's important to first frame customer service inquiries in two categories: simple problems that your customer could self-service a solution to with the help of a knowledge base, and complex problems customers need personal help to solve.

For those complex problems that can't be solved with an FAQ section, try this winning multichannel communication combination: Live chat,  CRM, and text messaging.

To tweak this combination to your specific needs, first you need to look at your analytics to determine who your customers are, where they are shopping with you and when they most often require assistance.

Once you've determined your biggest needs, browse the market for one of the many helpdesk tools that combines the three key elements and can integrate with your platform.

Helpdesk tools can collect information on individual customers, including their past orders and past conversations with your team, making it easy to gain context and preemptively address their needs. These tools can also consolidate all of your outreach, i.e. Instagram messages, Facebook messages and emails to your help desk, into a single inbox, helping you better manage and track your outreach.

If possible, have at least one dedicated team member who can manage this inbox, as 75% of people who contact a company for customer support via social media expect a response within an hour.

2) Personalize your customers' onsite and offsite experiences.

A customer's experience doesn't end once they exit your site. Whether they checked out or not, each visitor provides you with insightful data that can be used to entice them to return.

Here are a few ways to begin thinking about personalizing your customer's journey:

1) Email campaigns

Just adding a customer's first name to an email can add a personalized touch, but you can go beyond this by adding personalized product recommendations for items similar to those they browsed or bought recently. You can also encourage them to return to leave a product review, remind them about re-upping on past purchases they may be running low on, or simply stop by to say hello if they haven't visited your site in a while.

2) Special promotions

Segment your customers by their browsing activities, such as what product pages they visit or what channel brought them to your site. Then, when they return, change up the messaging or merchandising to reflect what you know about their tastes and preferences. You can also offer discounts or free shipping to return visitors to show your appreciation.

3) Memorable packaging

Don't miss the opportunity to extend brand awareness through physical orders. Adding a handwritten note, sending stickers or using attractive packaging are small but tangible ways to encourage customers to return for more.

3) Use testimonials to generate future revenue.

One effective way to build relationships with customers is to demonstrate how you've helped other customers like them. The social proof is in the numbers:

  • 92% of consumers read online reviews and testimonials when considering a purchase.
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Testimonials generate 62% more revenue per site visitor.

Positive testimonials from your past customers not only serve as third-party proof points to nudge new customers into converting, they can also drive traffic to your site and increase customers' average order value.

Consider the popularity of Amazon. While the sheer size of the site and expedited shipping options are certainly a factor in driving site visits, the ability for online shoppers to read product reviews plays a role in this high-converting platform as well. In fact, both Google and Amazon value customer reviews so highly, they actually favor products with the best average ratings by placing them higher in search rankings.

On your branded site, reviews and testimonials can prove just as valuable. They naturally contain long-tailed keywords consumers are searching for and provide an ever-fresh resource of content for your site, boosting your organic SEO and increasing traffic by 45% for the average site.

Positive testimonials can also be repurposed in a range of ways, including:

  • On product pages: Testimonials on individual product pages can answer visitor questions and remove barriers to checkout.
  • On social media: Posting testimonials or positive customer quotes alongside product images serves as engaging content that builds brand trust on your Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest pages.
  • As paid ads: Once you hit 30 reviews within one year that average 3.5 stars or higher, Google automatically begins showing product ratings within your AdWords. This can increase the ad clickthrough rate by up to 10%.

4) Increase customer lifetime value through loyalty programs. 

What better way to build a relationship with your customers than to incentivize them for their loyalty? 

The idea behind building a customer loyalty program is that you're prioritizing customer lifetime value as a business metric. Customer lifetime value is a predictable measurement that uses data to estimate how much an individual will spend with you over the course of your relationship, and can be calculated using metrics from your analytics tool.

Loyalty programs give you the opportunity to obtain customer contact information and continually engage with them via email, keeping your brand at top of mind. You have complete control to design a loyalty program that makes the most sense for your brand, but most opt to offer special discounts or free shipping to keep customers engaged and motivated to return.

Exceptional customer service doesn't have to take up all of your bandwidth. Start by paying closer attention to your data, which will point to areas you have room for revenue growth.

Then, you can add the tools and personalized touches that make sense for your brand over time. The important thing to remember is to start and end by focusing on the customer. If your efforts truly have your customer experience prioritized, you're already well on your way to building exceptional and long-lasting customer relationships.

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Originally published Nov 15, 2017 8:00:00 AM, updated July 12 2019


Customer Service