How to attract new customers on the road out of lockdown

The mid-April period is going to be an exciting time for the public, and a time of opportunity for business.

With shops opening, we’re expecting a lot of competition for the UK’s disposable income, and for the public to be excited to go out and do the things they’ve missed out on since 2020. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar location re-opening, or an online retailer, you have a dog in the fight.

Physical locations will be looking to make a strong comeback and online retailers, whether they were digital-first before lockdown or not, will be looking to protect their gains over the last 12 months. It’s a challenge, but it’s one very few companies in the UK can afford to shirk away from.

Lots of experts in the loyalty and acquisition world will tell you that you’re better off looking for long-term changes. And to an extent they’re right, but long-term changes take time to kick in.

If you’re just focused on making the most of the next few weeks and months, here’s what you can do.

Run a promotion

You can offer discounts, 2-for-1 deals, or attach a reward like a digital or plastic gift card to certain purchases – whatever works for your business. It’s simple, but as our clients will tell you, it works.

Hundreds of our customers use Love2shop rewards to promote their products and services, and we often recommend that they focus not on the gift card itself, but all the possibilities the gift card opens up.

With the one multi-retailer gift card, you can offer your customers gifts from Argos, Currys PC World, and even holidays. Focusing on the outcome, and the experience that your customers will have with their reward, does more to motivate individuals than focusing on the gift or its monetary value.

Even better, a promotion is also the starting point of launching into a loyalty scheme to keep your customers once you’ve won them. We’ll talk more about that in another blog soon.

Be shareable

Aside from their fitness goals updates and park walks, it’s been months since anyone had anything decent to share on social media. Across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, the content well has been pumped dry. That gives your company an opportunity – be shareable.

What looks good on social media affects consumer behaviour, to the extent that almost one in ten people surveyed have admitted to making purchases with their social media presence in mind.

Not only will offering something shareable get customers to think about coming to your company over your competitors, they’ll do a bit of your marketing work for you by putting your products in front of their friends. And as we’ll point out below, word of mouth matters.

Team up with your peers

As restrictions ease one at a time there will, temporarily, be a slightly unequal situation. Depending on what kind of physical space is available, and which restrictions are affecting their business, some companies will have an advantage over others.

For instance, a pub with a beer garden is at an advantage over a pub without one, in the near term. Working with your peers could be a short-term solution to this imbalance.

Take stock of what’s around you, whether that’s digitally or physically, assess who could complement your business (and vice versa), and reach out to talk about some cross-promotions for the next few weeks and months.

Get a grip on your reputation

We talked recently about how important online reputation is. Consumers are in the habit of checking sites before spending their cash, and they trust what they see on review sites as if it came from their friends.

That means the state of your Trustpilot page, or another review site of your choice, will have a direct impact on whether customers spend money with you while we’re easing restrictions around the country.

You can use our guide here to clean up your Trustpilot page for any recent negative reviews, but it’s also worth asking any current customers for their reviews to make sure there’s recent, positive feedback for your next customer.

Over to you

Attracting customers is about more than just making the most of the next few weeks and months. There are long-term improvements that every company needs to invest in to find new business, but right now we’re focused on how the maximise the benefits of the immediate future.

Redesigning your website, renovating your shopfront, working on your SEO presence, upgrading your services and products – if you haven’t done them by now, there’s no time to get them up and running by mid-April. That doesn’t mean you can’t maximise what’s possible to do now, though.

If you have any questions about setting up a sales promotion to bring some more customers into your business, just get in touch. We’re always up for a chat.

How to maintain customer loyalty on the road out of lockdown

In a recent blog, we talked about competition for business on the route out of lockdown. It won’t escape anyone’s attention that, if your business is planning to attract new customers over the coming months, your competitors are doing the same.

That means capitalising on customer loyalty to make sure they stick with you during the road out of lockdown.

Many of the experts in the loyalty world will tell you that keeping customers is about more than short-term campaigns, and in just about any other time they’d be right. The good news is that you don’t have to choose between the two.

It’s possible to use the same ideas that generate long-term customer loyalty but briefly turn them up to 11 while we navigate the economic sugar-rush of coming out of lockdown.

More good news is that by and large, customers are more loyal than they might get credit for, and they have more bandwidth for brand loyalty than you might think. That just leaves the question of what you have to do inspire that loyalty.

We’ll outline a few things you can develop and deploy in a short time-frame that will give you an edge over the next few weeks and months.

Exclusivity

According to research from Yotpo, a key desire from loyal consumers is exclusivity. Customers expect to be rewarded for sticking around, and the research shows they want to be rewarded with things not available to the public.

Do a quick audit of what promotions you have planned, what products or services you’ll be offering, and what you expect business to look like for the next few weeks and months. Then decide what you can offer as an exclusive, or as an early-access treat, for your loyal customers.

It might seem counterintuitive to make something available only to loyal customers, but you don’t have to close the public out completely. Just making something available first would do the trick to reward customers for coming back.

Whether it’s new products, new services, or early-access to sales, exclusive access is what audiences are looking for in exchange for sticking with your brand.

Supercharged schemes

We often hear that loyalty is more than points and cards, and we agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. But, importantly, it’s “more than” cards and points, not “instead of” cards and points.

In fact, we work with a lot of companies in industries where a favourable points-mean-prizes loyalty scheme is the foundation of any serious loyalty effort.

Rewards, either delivered through a scheme or attached to promoted products and returning customers, have an important place in generating repeat business.

Boosting the rewards on offer for loyalty gives you two immediate benefits. First, you make your own offering more competitive during a time of steep competition. Second, it’s a reason to put yourself in front of an audience and promote yourself.

Depending on your industry, it might also be a reason to put your brand in front of your competitors’ audience – for instance if they’re coming to the end of a points banking cycle around the financial new year.

If you don’t have a loyalty scheme or returning customer promotion in place, there’s no time like the present to start. Even a quick, makeshift scheme that rewards customers for coming back after lockdown would make a difference in the next few weeks.

It would also form a convenient springboard for more long-term efforts in the future.

Align with values

Consumers make lifestyle and values-informed decisions, meaning brands need to incorporate and highlight values for their customers.

Not every brand has the same ethical underpinning as a brand like Lush, but whatever you do have should be highlighted and put in the spotlight.

Your community efforts, any sustainability projects you’re working on, any time you give your staff to volunteer is worth getting in front of your customers. If what consumers are saying is to be believed, values-alignment makes customers want to stick around.

Be good today, try perfect tomorrow – use what you have available and get it in front your customers.

It will give you an edge when you’re talking to customers in the short-term future, and tip the scales when existing customers are thinking about switching loyalties.

Over to you

Long-term customer loyalty means time, investment, and quite possibly changes to how your business runs to stay relevant to your audience.

In the short term, however, there’s a needle that needs moving. These ideas are achievable for a business with a lot of business to keep, and little time to make long-term changes.

If you have any questions, or want to talk about deploying any of the advice in this article, feel free to get in touch. We’re always up for a chat.

How we turn 1-star Trustpilot reviews into 5-star reviews

Trustpilot, or the review site you rely on, is now an essential part of your company’s reputation management. And the stats say you don’t have the luxury of disagreeing:

  • 93% of customers check review sites before they buy from a company[1]
  • 91% of consumers trust review sites as much as they trust word of mouth[2]
  • Consumers read an average of 10 reviews before they trust a business[3]

Having a review site isn’t enough, though. It has to be manned, managed, and curated. Like any other digital outlet, consumers expect that you’ll be there for them when they talk to you, and what they see (or don’t see) on your Trustpilot page is a reflection of your business.

It’s is a chance for you to demonstrate a proactive, empathetic approach to customer service, giving your customers faith in your business before they even talk to you.

That includes knowing what to do when a 1-star review comes down the pipe. And no matter how good you are, the bad review will come.

In this article we’ll outline how to turn a 1-star review into a 5-star review, and how to make the most of the good reviews as well.

We wrote this article about Trustpilot, but the advice here is still relevant whether you’re using Google Reviews, Feefo, Birdeye and more.

How we turn 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews

Because we treat our Trustpilot page as a loyalty and acquisition tool, we have an internal process for dealing with all reviews that come in, including bad ones. Actually, especially the bad ones.

We start by making sure the user is in the right place.

Is the review legit?

The first thing we do with a bad review is assess whether the complaint is legitimate. This sounds simple, but it’s important – is the reviewer actually talking about your business?

For instance, you might manufacture tyres. And you may get a Trustpilot review talking about the quality of service they received in an independent fitter selling your tyres.

While their complaint is legitimate, the complaint’s place on your page isn’t. On Trustpilot, you may apply to have the negative review removed on the grounds that it’s not about your company. It might seem harsh, but we’re talking about your company’s reputation.

If it’s a legitimate review, you can move to the next step of the plan.

Dealing with a legitimate bad review

First, check if the user has left their name, or their business’ name.

If they have, connect the name to information in your database, or customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce. If you don’t have a CRM system in place, you can go to your sales or account management team and ask about the customer.

Find more information on the complaint, bug, or delivery issue the customer is experiencing. Armed with this information, you can make an attempt to resolve the issue.

While you’re doing this, be sure to leave a sympathetic reply offering the unhappy customer a chance to get in touch and resolve the issue. Whether they initiate contact in reply, or you get in touch later, it’s important to be seen to engage with bad reviews. We’ll explain more about that later.

You know better than we do on how to talk to individual clients, but in our experience a negative review is often an act of frustration. And it often comes from a sense of not being heard. Opening dialogue is the first step to alleviating that frustration and finding a happy outcome.

With your internal team, and your client, you can find out what the issue is and implement a solution.

Approach the reviewer

Once the issue is resolved, and the customer is happy again, you can talk about their review. Ask the client if they’re otherwise happy with your service, and if they are, ask if they would consider changing (or removing) their negative review.

Precisely when you do this depends on the scale of the problem resolved, and the quality of your relationship with the client – you and your team will know best on this front.

But if our experience tells us anything, a happy client will often be amenable to changing their review. Especially when asked directly – they’re no longer talking to the faceless review site, they’re talking to a human being who has gone out of their way to resolve a problem for them.

When you don’t have the details

Your reviewer might have taken pains to stay anonymous, or you might not be able to match them up to a contact in your CRM system. It happens from time to time.

You should still leave a reply and invite the customer to talk about the problem they’re having. With a bit of luck, they will get in touch and you can resolve the problem with the same process we outlined earlier.

But even if they choose not to get in touch, leaving a reply is better than letting it fester unchallenged. As we pointed out earlier, it’s there for benefit of the next customer that comes along to the page too.

Being engaged and energetic about your review page shows readers that your customer service is proactive and interested. Combined with a high review score, it helps you build confidence in existing and prospective customers that you’re a quality provider.

Tips on leaving a good reply to a bad review:

  1. Be courteous. Not quite formal, but polite.
  2. Be human, using their name if it’s supplied, and using straightforward language.
  3. Express that you’re sorry the customer is having a problem, but don’t apologise or admit blame in your reply.
  4. Offer to help, and leave them with a direct way to get in touch.
  5. Sign off with your own name and title, not the company’s name.

What to do when someone leaves a good review

It’s not all rainy days!

You’re good at what you do, your customers know that, and they’ll express that in reviews. There’s no shame in shamelessly making the most of the good news when you get it.

Here’s how to get the most out of a 5-star review.

Reply to the review

Just as you would for a negative review, get back in touch to thank the user for taking the time to leave positive comments. For all the reasons we’ve already discussed, this is important.

Keep track of them

It pays to start keeping a document of your positive reviews as soon as possible. When you want to draw on them later, it’s much easier to search through an Excel sheet than use Trustpilot’s user interface.

Getting into the habit of logging them pays off down the line when you need information in a hurry. Especially when you want to find one quickly by client, sector, time, or content.

Use them externally

As a review left on a website is in the public domain, you’re free to use a good one to promote your business. That said, we would recommend asking clients for their permission if you want to alter the review.

That would include using it as part of a brochure, adding them to a testimonials section of your website, or using them for your marketing material. And you will want to use them.

A good review from a major client makes for excellent social media content, something to drop into your newsletter to clients, and something you can include on promotional material when prospecting new customers.

Don’t be shy about tooting your own horn when your clients are raving about your company.

Share them internally

If a customer names a specific employee in the review, be sure to pass the review on to that person in recognition of their work.

Or, if the review highlights a particular product or service, let your internal teams know how the end-users appreciate their work.

While doing this, it’s worth CC’ing leadership figures in, so that managers can chip-in with their own recognition, and to make these success stories as visible as possible.

Over to you

Regardless of the review site you use, these simple steps help you turn a Trustpilot page into a legitimate part of your loyalty and acquisition strategy.

If you want to talk about anything else your company can do to bring more customers in, and keep the ones you have for longer, just get in touch!

The secret recipe to customer retention

During the last six months our consultants have received an unprecedented number of questions from customers asking, “how do I increase customer loyalty?” It seems that Covid, and lockdown, has lead to many people looking at their finances and evaluating their current suppliers of utilities, insurance and mobile services.

Which makes a lot of sense: when you are working from home or have more time on your hands, you start to feel the impact of any poor service and start to question the value you are getting.

So, we asked our experts, consultants who have decades of experience designing retention schemes for service providers, to tell us the secret to increasing customer loyalty.

Stop selling, start listening

People hate the hard sell. It’s always been true, and it’s more true today when they can shop at their own pace online. They especially hate it when they’re already customers and already have a relationship with your company. In fact, we have a few teams here that could be

described as “sales” teams, but they don’t really spend much time selling. If you were to shadow them for the day, you’d see they spend most of their time listening.

They spend a lot of time talking to our clients about what’s going in their business, what they need, and then giving suggestions on how to help – not necessarily trying to sell them a product. To this end, we hire people with empathy and people skills to listen and advise, not just do the relentless, pushy sell.

TOP TIP: Prioritise personal service, an authentic interest in helping your customers achieve or succeed, and a passion for what your company does well.

Be agile

Processes are important but they can’t be prioritised at the expense of quality customer service. Think about the last time you had to on hold for ten minutes, only to end up talking to someone [or a machine] sticking rigidly to a script. It’s unpleasant, it’s frustrating, and worst of all it makes your customers feel like they’re not important to your company.

This harks back to the listening we talked about earlier. People want a chance to explain their questions, problems, or concerns to someone. Having a chance to just say the problem to you is part of the solution. Once it’s out in the open, customer support teams can acknowledge it and be their advocate in fixing it.

There’s no replacement for that sensation. That you have someone on your side, who is willing to side-step rigid process, investigate your question, then give you answers and solutions. And there’s definitely no automated system that can replicate it.

TOP TIP: empower your front line teams to fix problems, quickly without having to go through lengthy processes.

Celebrate everyone

Everyone that interacts with your customers affects retention, not just your frontline sales staff. After all, your customers aren’t only going to be talking to your sales teams. Even if you manage clients through an account manager model like we do, there’s more contact points than just your rep.

In our case, our clients talk to our finance department, they talk to our business support teams, and their customers or employees talk to our end-user support teams about our products.

These interactions all add up to create a perception of your company in your clients’ eyes. What’s the good in having knowledgeable, empathetic, passionate sales staff if your clients find your finance department unbearable? Or if your customer support teams make your customers feel second best? Or if someone’s staff and customers are endlessly dissatisfied with their rewards?

Just as importantly – if you operate an account manager model like we do, how are your client contacts going to see your business if their interactions with you revolve around problems like the ones we just outlined?

Everyone that interacts with your clients’ needs to understand their role in customer retention, and just as vitally, they need to be equipped with the flexibility and skills to fully take part in that role.

TOP TIP: Recognise all employees for their contributions in keeping your customers coming back.

Embrace the little things

Make the details matter. They matter to your customers. When you look at what makes customers loyal to big brands like Apple, one of the things anyone can replicate is paying attention to the little things. Quality of packaging, the design of their stores, the training and motivation of their staff.

Now we can’t all be as fashionable as Apple, but we can act like Apple, all the same.

You can make sure your hold music isn’t rubbish. You can make sure your receptionists are equipped to make your guests comfortable when they visit. You can make sure your customers don’t have to repeat their information and their query when they pass between departments on the phone. You can make sure you remember orders and follow-up with customers when you’d expect to hear from them.

TOP TIP: Paying attention to small details doesn’t just add up to a better experience for your customers, it shows your investment and interest in how your customers experience your company. It all adds up.

Be consistent

Not to blow our own trumpet, but we found that one of the key things that keeps Appreciate Business Services clients coming back is that our products offer a consistent experience. Our customers come to us, and whether they plump for our digital rewards, gift cards or our vouchers, they get something that lets their customers, or their employees, pick a great gift for themselves.

By doing that, we spare every company that comes to us from the need to warehouse a huge selection of gifts for every conceivable audience they interact with. This key component is the same every time our customers come back to get in touch.

Our products, combined with our approach to customer services, is a huge part of what brings our clients back year-in, year-out.

TOP TIP: Whenever your customers come to your business, they need a consistent, repeatable experience.

Over to you

Like many “secret” recipes, it’s not all that secret. We’re not MI6, we don’t have Q sitting in a lab in central Liverpool cooking up secret gadgets and techniques that no one else can access.

Doing the simple things really well, will keep customers coming back year after.

If you want to talk about it retaining more of your customers, get in touch. We’re always happy to listen and talk.

Could screwing up, and making it right, be the best thing you do for customer loyalty?

It sounds like a joke, right? Why would anyone be more loyal to a company that messes up, even if they make it right later on?

Many people out in the world would agree – once trust has been damaged once, you’ve made a permanent and indelible mark on your reputation with a client, shifting the balance of your relationship for a long time.

Well, that might not be so. In fact, many have claimed for years that recovering after a fumble may improve your relationship with clients. It’s a theory called the service recovery paradox.

There’s always been a bit of debate about just how much of the phenomenon is fable and how much is fact, but a recent meta-analysis in the Journal of Service, taking in data on the subject from a wide range of sources, gave us some interesting results.

The paradox explained

Sometimes, your service fails beneath where customers think your service level should be. This could be down to a variety of factors, some of them inside and outside of your control.

First, the company has to fix the problem, restoring service to at least to the level before the failure occurred.

Once the service dissatisfaction is gone, the company can build trust, and build the perceived value of the company according to customers. For some clients, this will make them see your company as more valuable to them than they did before they experienced a dip in service, and be more loyal to your company. In turn, increasing their value to you as repeat customers.

That’s the claim made by the service recovery paradox.

Reality bites

The findings of the study we cited above and others, unfortunately, found that while they could find evidence of the paradox working, it’s not something you should bank on.

Both the meta-analysis, an inductive analysis of all available information to the researchers, along with previous studies, paint a tenuous picture for the customer recovery paradox, with too many contingencies and moving parts to be considered reliable.

A previous study from Mangini found that the customer service paradox relied on:

  • Customers having not experienced previous service failure.
  • That the service failure was not thought of as severe by the customer, and;
  • That the failure was largely out of the company’s control.

Even when these criteria were met, and this effect is produced, the meta-analysis found that the paradox did increase satisfaction somewhat, but didn’t impact buying intentions, word of mouth behaviour, or the brand image.

However – you still have to recover that service. Like many of the things we talk about on this blog, there’s no silver bullet out there, or in this case a convenient paradox to make it easy. But keeping customers in the fold is more important than ever, and paradox or not it’s important to get a grip on it.

Service failure and recovery is a bit of a big subject to get into here, but there’s three big things you can start thinking about this week now to make it easier.

Making amends

Words and demeanour

Too often, companies scramble to offer effusive apologise and prostrate themselves on the good will of their customers. They believe that one mistake, even if they recover from it, should be treated as fatal.

The result is customer service teams that flail from one crisis to the next. Treating every small fire as a towering inferno, and passing that sense of insecure panic on to their customers.

Knowing that your own mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and that for some customers they might even be made happier than when they initially complained, should change the mind-set to helping unhappy customers.

Approach the situation with confidence that you’re a quality provider, that you’re in control of the problem your customer has, and that you can fix it and make amends for the inconvenience. And equip your staff to carry that into their interactions with customers.

Access and actions

Your company needs dissatisfied customers talking to your recovery staff. This is to demonstrate as early as possible that you’re in control, that you can make the problem right, and that you can make repair the problem.

Service recovery hinges on being able to talk to customers, and vice versa. Customers can talk amongst themselves, they can quietly leave, they can even complain on public forums like Trustpilot.

You can try to intercept as much third-party negativity as possible, but your service recovery effort is only effective when you’re in direct contact.

That means having clear, well-signposted and well-maintained channels for complaint, manned by knowledgeable, conscientious employees. Not having these in place makes it impossible to run effective service recovery, and takes the idea that customers will be more loyal to your company, regardless of any paradoxes, off the table.

Amends

Rewards make excellent service recovery tools, particularly when dealing with individuals’ complaints. Over a long period, an occasional cash-value reward as a sign of gratitude or, sometimes, apology is a great investment. It’s a relatively small outlay for you but isn’t easily forgotten by customers.

This is particularly effective when you can personalise how you reward. It’s not practical to try and warehouse a gift fit for everyone, so it’s most likely that you’ll be using a multi-choice product like a gift card or reward code. You can’t “personalise” the gift itself, but you can personalise the message around it.

For instance – if you know a customer uses your insurance company to insure a vintage vehicle, you can deduce they have a passion for cars. While you’re delivering them a reward, it might be prudent to point out the customer can enjoy their gift at a track day.

You’re not just showing that you’re reticent about a service failure, you’re showing that you see and appreciate that there’s a human being behind the account number and complaint.

Summary

If you’re not sold on the science when it comes to the service recovery paradox, you’re not alone. There’s definitely more research to be done into the phenomena, but it’s an idea worth talking about.

However, regardless of your opinion on customer service phenomena, service recovery should be a priority. Especially as the world heads into uncertain economic times – money and time spent keeping customers now is money exceptionally well spent.