You know what’s good for business? Loyalty. That’s where the big bucks are people, or at least, the predictable bucks (which are the best kind). And nothing creates customer loyalty like awesome frontline staff – people who bring your brand to life and go the extra mile for your customers everyday.
There aren’t any shortcuts to building loyalty – you have to earn it, just like trust. But it IS possible to boost it by stepping up for customers in their moments of panic. If you can make things better for a customer, when everything’s going wrong, they’re more likely to stick by you when competitors come knocking.
Your customer-facing staff ARE your business: A tale of new teeth
A couple of months ago, my wife Helen got some new front teeth. When you get crowns, there’s a wait period while your molds are sent off to the New-Teethery. In the meantime you have temporaries fitted – they look the same as your old teeth, but they’re a lot more… porous. She knew this, but kind of forgot, until she was on her way to meet with new, quite-important clients.
It was a busy day. She’d wolfed down some lunch while scrambling to get her things together, then ran out the door without looking in a mirror. Stopped at the lights, she glanced in the rear view mirror and did a double take. It looked like someone had swapped her front teeth for the nibs from some yellow highlighters.
Guys, the photo doesn’t do it justice.
They were Yellow, with a capital Y; very noticeably, distinctly fluorescent. The culprit? Her lunch: home-made curry with lots (and I mean lots) of turmeric.
Her first panicked call was to the dentist’s office and Sharla, the practice manager answered, like she always does. She stopped Helen hyperventilating by sharing her similar experience with American mustard. She recommended lemonade (or champagne) to take some of the colour out, then waited around until after Helen had finished her meeting and could pop by the clinic to remove the rest of the colour.
Practice manager isn’t the role that gets all the glory, but it’s Sharla who checks in the day after an appointment, and helps you judge whether those niggles are just in your head. She tells you how long you can leave things between appointments, or what to watch for when you’re expecting a sensitive tooth to get ugly.
Dr Matt, our dentist, is technically excellent, has a calming bedside manner and his nurses and assistants are also brilliant, but if I had to name one thing that kept me loyal, it’d be her. Outside of the chair, she drives the patient experience, which, let’s be honest, is the part that makes me rebook.
Just like your front-line teams, Sharla is the face of the business. It’s through those customer-facing staff, your buyers are building a relationship with your products and loyalty to your brand.
This makes it even more important that you’re recruiting people who align with your core brand values – that have the soft skills and traits you need to perform highly and build loyalty with your customers.
How do you find the staff that make customers desperately, fanatically loyal?
The truth is, great employees make businesses great, but it works the other way too – great businesses make employees great. We’ve talked about this before – how shared purpose or values is far more important that personality or competence.
Most customer-facing organisations out there would claim to hold customers at the very centre of what they do. Very few actually deliver on that. Not because they’re liars or because they don’t want it enough.
It’s because truly putting customers first is complicated and expensive. And it starts with prioritising your internal culture.
The equation is simple. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of your customers.
So much of taking care of your people is about building a healthy culture in which people are pulling together. They’re bonded by a shared mission and shared core values. A culture that provides enough structure to be practical, but allows opportunities for freedom. Empowering your teams to go the extra mile for customers and feel responsibility for that relationship.
Take our dentist example: The management has consciously set a tone – they’re genuinely driven by giving people a good experience. More importantly, they’ve managed to create an environment where Sharla can live that culture too. Her boss can trust her to be wonderful, and then gives her the resources (and freedom) to do it.
But plop Sharla down into another environment, where she’s not supported and trusted the same way and where her values don’t align so strongly with the company and things might be different. She’s likely to be just as efficient and personable, but she may not get the chance to display the extra layer of wonderful that creates that magical customer loyalty.
So, it’s not Sharla herself laying the golden loyalty eggs; it’s the synergy between company culture and an employee that perfectly fits that’s the real goose.
Culture fit, ya’ll, it’s crucial to a company’s success – and I recommend never going to the dentist without it.
If you want to build teams that’ll drive loyal customer relationships, talk to us about how Weirdly screening assessments could fit in your recruitment process.