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The power of the happy customer: 7 strategies to delight and inspire

illustration of a person unboxing headphones with their dog. five yellow stars are hanging above them.

What does it mean to have happy customers?

When customers are satisfied, they’re much more likely to shop with your brand again in the future, to spend more with each purchase, and most importantly of all, to recommend your brand to others. When 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key factor in their purchasing decisions, your brand needs to be plugged into what your customers are thinking and feeling about their experience.

Today, online reviews and customer feedback are the most powerful forms of word of mouth. When reviews are on your side, this helps your business to grow and reach new customers. But when customers are unhappy, this can seriously damage your brand’s reputation.

In this post, we’re exploring what both emerging and established brands can do to delight and inspire their customers into sharing positive experiences.

The power of customer feedback

So, why does customer feedback matter? To be blunt, consumers are far more interested in what your customers think about your brand than what you have to say. This is because we can generally rely on customers to be honest about their experiences. Businesses? Not so much. 

Multiple studies have confirmed just how important customer reviews are to the process of choosing a vendor:

  • 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
  • 1 in 3 consumers would rather post feedback on social media than contact a business directly. 
  • 93% of consumers say that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions.

Moreover, the process of leaving a review is very empowering for consumers. Given the high profile that many brands have, it can feel difficult for customers to tell their side of the story – especially if they’re shopping with the 42% of businesses that have no official system for collecting feedback.

Customers choosing to share a positive brand experience is a massive win for your brand, while a negative review can just as easily scare customers away.

Are customers more likely to share a bad review than a good review?

Now here is the golden question: Could your reputation be undone by just one or two sub-par reviews?
Studies on this topic are mixed. A study by Sitel Group found 30% of consumers who have had a negative customer experience would share it – compared with 49% who would share a positive customer experience. Yet this is contradicted by a survey from Review trackers, who found that consumers were 6% more likely to leave a negative review:

graph of consumers who say they are likely to leave a review after and positive or negative experience

A key reason for this could be that consumers are evaluating multiple options and need to whittle them down to one. This makes negative reviews a convenient shortcut for consumer decision-making. In sum, we’re more likely to look for reasons why we shouldn’t buy something than reasons why we should.

But Review Trackers also tells us something interesting about how customer reviews have evolved over time. Online reviews actually got 12% more positive between 2010 and 2017. So while negative reviews are more likely overall, the gap steadily narrowing.

While it’s unclear why this is, it’s likely that the increasing ease of leaving reviews and the growing importance of CX has begun to tip the balance in favor of sharing positive experiences.

However, your business definitely doesn’t want to leave this to chance. By making an effort to delight and inspire your customers, there’s a much higher chance of them leaving positive reviews that enhance your reputation and encourage others to support your business.

7 Strategies to delight and inspire customers

1. Embracing the ‘me’ channel

We all understand the importance of omnichannel, but brands need to appreciate that the word means little to your customer. From their standpoint, it’s difficult to perceive where one selling channel finishes and the other begins. They only see one thing: Your brand. And they view themselves as being at the very center of it.

This is what we refer to at Whiplash as the ‘me’ channel – the way that your customer wants to navigate the shopping experience. Consumers don’t care whether they’re shopping in-store or online; they just want consistency and hassle-free interactions with your brand. They don’t want to be told that promotional deals are online-only, or that a product bought online can’t be returned in-store. None of this is in the interest of your customer – and that means it isn’t in the interest of your brand, either.

So, what does the ‘me’ channel look like?

O2O shopping capabilities. Hybrid fulfillment methods such as BOPIS, BORIS, and ROPIS have become commonplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for retailers to ease pressure on their home delivery services. O2O (online-to-offline) retail gives customers the freedom to shop exactly how they want and not be caught in silos that add friction to the customer experience.

Personalized recommendations. A lack of personalized offers or product recommendations can be alienating as this gives the message that your brand doesn’t understand their customers – or worse, that they don’t care to. This hampers your ability to form a relationship with your customer and may drive them to a competitor. It’s worth noting that while consumers are wary about sharing personal data, they will do so if they get something in return; 57% of shoppers are willing to share their information if they receive personalized offers.

Seamless cross-channel experiences. Your customers shouldn’t have to go back to square one whenever they switch to browsing or shopping in a different channel. For example, if a customer researching a product online has to essentially restart their product search when they go in-store, then you aren’t offering a truly unified customer experience. Customer profiles that save browsing and purchasing data are a way to solve this problem.

2. Flexible shipping options 

The fast vs. free shipping debate no longer sums up how customers think about delivery. Today, it’s about choice as much as it is about price. 

Some customers want their goods as fast as possible, while others will happily wait longer if it means that delivery is free. As many as 70% of consumers are willing to splash out for expedited delivery methods to get their orders faster, while 45% of consumers are accepting longer delivery times than they did in the past due to COVID-19.

Customer priorities are also likely to shift with each purchase. A birthday present is a timely purchase, while out-of-season clothing is not. Your shipping methods need to reflect this by offering multiple options catering to different price points and levels of urgency.

It’s a good idea to partner with a fulfillment provider who can offer you an advanced shipping API. This enables pricing comparisons between multiple carriers to create a shipping strategy that’s cost-effective and meets customer expectations.

3. Be responsive to customer concerns

Missed delivery or inaccurate order? It happens even with the best OMS. What matters is how your brand responds to it. If customers have to spend hours on hold or days waiting for a response to their emailed service request, anxiety and frustration is going to increase. By the time you get around to responding, you’ll have lost them as a customer – even if you have a solution to the problem.

For today’s consumers, it’s the immediacy of customer care that counts. It shows that you really care about the customer experience and want to set things right as quickly as possible. And their expectations are high:

To meet expectations, your brand needs to ensure that customers can answer basic queries on their own without needing a customer service agent. Self-service options including order tracking, FAQs, and knowledge bases help to cut down unnecessary service queries and speed up response times.

4. Unboxing experience

Today very few merchants sell products that are totally unique. This means you need to give consumers a powerful incentive to choose your brand over others.

An excellent customer experience is your best weapon to cement customer loyalty and repeat purchasing behavior. But simply ticking the boxes of on-time delivery and accurate order contents is no longer enough; you need to demonstrate to customers that you really deserve their loyalty.

An unboxing experience is a tactile and immersive ritual that enables brands to end the customer journey with the ultimate favorable impression. Branded product packaging, engaging inserts, product sampling campaigns, and other bespoke offerings all come together to create a powerful pitch as to why your brand is distinct from its competitors. 

In a climate where every customer is an influencer, the quality of your unboxing experience could be the difference between an average review and a glowing one. After all, nobody wants to receive a battered cardboard box with a product thrown carelessly in the bottom. Even small touches such as a ‘thank you for your order’ card or a free branded sticker can make a huge difference to customer retention. 

5. Flexible returns management

Returns management is a neglected part of the customer experience for a simple reason; many merchants don’t like reflecting on the likelihood of returns taking place. But when returns cost retailers an estimated $428 billion in 2020, you can’t afford to neglect such a critical touchpoint in the customer experience.

A return should never be treated as a customer exiting the sales funnel, never to return again. In fact, a study for Narvar showed that nearly two-thirds of consumers want to exchange or find a replacement for the item they’re returning. By offering customers a seamless returns process, you can ensure that they choose to keep doing business with your brand instead of with a competitor.

So, what is flexible returns management?

Buy Online, Return In-store. Offering a BORIS option makes returns much more convenient for consumers due to instant refunds and the ability to browse for replacement products in the same store visit. They can also get valuable advice from store associates that streamlines the product search and promotes brand loyalty.

Make exchanges easy. Exchanges are the best outcome for retailers as this minimizes lost revenue and keeps customers from falling out of the sales funnel. However, exchanges are often a friction-filled process where customers must have the returned item processed in a warehouse before the replacement is dispatched. Instead, give your customers a one-click exchange option where the alternative product is sent out at the same item the return is made.

Self-service returns. Allowing customers to initiate the returns process themselves frees up valuable service time and empowers them to interact with a brand on their terms.  73% of consumers say that they want the ability to solve product or service problems on their own, and this means higher levels of brand loyalty for the brands that offer this option.

6. Create a community around your brand

The most successful brands aren’t those who offer unique products, but those who’ve managed to build a brand identity and story that consumers want to immerse themselves in. 

Retailers that achieve this are in the enviable position of not having to invest thousands into every marketing campaign to extend their reach. Why? Because they have a team of brand advocates who are happy to do this for them. 

Whether it’s through immersive storefronts or great aftercare, your brand should strive to create a community of happy customers who want to share their experiences. Social media has become a powerful tool for consumers and brands alike to reach like-minded people who are interested in specific products or lifestyles. If you leverage this effectively, you can build a loyal base of customers who love sharing everything about your brand.

A post from the glossierboyfriends Instagram account

The humorous Instagram account Boyfriends at Glossier is a fantastic example of when a brand is powerful enough to create its own ecosystem of content. The account was started by a self-professed ‘bored boyfriend’ hanging out in a Glossier store and has since racked up 24K followers – more than many real brand accounts have. Posts are selected from submissions and are also regularly shared on Glossier’s own feed to highlight how the Glossier experience is for everyone – even bored boyfriends.

7. Listen to feedback

When your customers are giving you feedback, whether that’s via an online form or tagging you on social media, the most important thing you can do is to show that you’re listening. Regardless of whether a review is positive or negative, you should make the effort to thank every customer for their feedback. If there’s a problem, promise to investigate and get back to them as quickly as possible. 

Remember: Most customers aren’t interested in hearing excuses about why a problem occurred. They just want to know what you’re going to do to fix it. For example, if you run a customer survey and identify some recurring pain points, consider sending out an email blast to your customers outlining the issues they’ve raised and the steps you’re going to take to address them. This shows that you’re genuinely listening to customer concerns, which promotes trust in your brand.

To truly experience the power of the happy customer, your brand needs to create a cohesive customer experience across multiple touchpoints. In addition to ensuring seamless interactions across channels and giving customers choice and flexibility, you also need to consider the post-purchase experience. Hassle-free returns and enjoyable unboxing experiences are crucial calls to action to help instill repeat purchasing behavior. But most of all, your brand needs to be responsive to customer feedback and use it as an opportunity to improve and grow. Because when customers feel valued, happiness follows.

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