Remember when every place was like Cheers? Where everybody knew your name? And that’s not all. They also knew your favorite order, your likes, your dislikes and probably a bit about your life too.
Or, maybe it wasn’t the bartender – it was the butcher, the baker and the dressmaker – and they knew your mom’s name. At least, that’s my childhood memory. I can vividly recall accompanying my mom on her many errands around town. As she shopped (and toted me around with her), every store owner was there to greet her. They knew her name, they knew her preferences, and they were ready to advise and guide her in making the right selections. It was a personal, authentic experience built on real emotional connections.
Sounds lovely, right? Takes you back to a simpler time. While most of us aren’t able to walk down Main Street, USA and chat with local shop owners as they select the best items for our needs, we still want that type of personalized experience. We still want a trusted expert to guide us – except we want it with modern-day speed and convenience.
And here’s where technology comes into play. Today it’s not the local store owner who knows your shopping preferences and needs, it’s your computer, your smartphone and your favorite online retailers!
Just consider one of the most popular shopping sites . . . yes, I’m talking about Amazon. After you log in, you’re greeted by name, you’re reminded of your recent orders and will always receive suggestions on add-on items you might need based on what you’re buying that day.
Sure, an excellent face-to-face experience is always nice – who doesn’t like seeing the local barista prep their coffee order as soon as they walk in the door? But the exciting thing is about today’s shopping experience is that it’s possible for brands to create personal connections with their customers whether they’re making a purchase in person or shopping from the comfort of their couch.
I should know, I’ve worked with companies for longer than I’m willing to admit – helping them go from stuck to stellar. And I just wrote a book, 720 Haircuts: Creating Customer Loyalty that Lasts a Lifetime, on this very topic. In it I share all my best secrets, and today I’m sharing a few with you right now!
The Power of the Emotional Connection
Creating emotional connections between your customers and your brand is the true determinant of customer loyalty. If you can establish an emotional connection between your business and your customer, you’ve achieved the secret behind exceptional customer service. This connection is everything! It is your company’s fingerprint, individual to you and your business. If Amazon can create this while you’re shopping in your PJs, your brand can do it too.
Here’s what the great companies do to differentiate and build those golden emotional connections:
- They establish a customer first culture. You have to start here. No ifs, ands or buts. You need to define your specific culture and customer experience. And get specific. What do you stand for? What makes you unique? Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact of all. As you plan your strategy, remember, the actions and behaviors of your leaders should reflect the culture you are trying to create.
- They empower staff to act like business owners. This means giving your people the flexibility and autonomy to address customer needs in real-time. No matter how prepared your organization is in terms of dealing with customer issues, there won’t be clear guidelines for every single scenario that can possibly arise. The customer experience you deliver can be unique because your team is empowered to fix a problem on the spot … or reward a happy and loyal customer for being just that. And this doesn’t just apply to face-to-face experiences. Your online support is critical. They too need to know they have the power to assist your customers and convert each shopper into a customer for life.
- They create an authentic experience. You can’t script real life and you shouldn’t try! You want your people to act true to their personalities. If they’re snarky, let them be snarky. If they’re serious or silly or dry, let them be themselves. If you want to create a customer experience that touches an individual and converts them to your customer for life, you need connect with them emotionally, and authentically, and that doesn’t come from a script. It’s as simple as that.
Whether you’re a sales associate, t-shirt designer or car manufacturer, a brick-and-mortar brand with 40 locations or an online-only e-tailor, there’s a real need to stand out today in every industry. And trust me on this, your competition is watching. The only thing they can’t replicate is the experience you provide. They can’t replace the emotional connect you create between YOUR brand and the shopper. Once this connection is established, that shopper becomes YOUR loyal customer.
The intricate lines and nuances of your culture, your people, and the way they interact with your customers both in store and online are what will shape that fingerprint and leave a real mark on everyone you touch.