Loyalty cards broke my wallet.
My favourite leather wallet blew out under the pressure of these credit card lookalikes, so I decided to take a more prudent look at where my loyalties truly lie.
The result? My five-minute wallet audit led to me finding a new home for six loyalty cards – the bin. I kept one (I can’t turn down discounted Thai food).
About half of all the cards in my now semi-functional wallet were unused loyalty cards I had picked up from coffee shops, burrito bars and retailers.
Maybe it’s my fault for picking up so many, but it got me thinking about these prevalent pieces of plastic. They’re one of the cheapest and most standard kind of customer retention strategies. Judging by how many businesses produce these cards, they must work, right?
Wrong. They’ve become so standard, that they don’t surprise customers anymore. And they’re not very delightful either (no one enjoys a ripped wallet).
Keeping the online customer coming back
Loyalty is getting harder to buy.
Motivating customers to come back for repeat business is what every seller wants to do — but it’s no easy feat. In fact, it’s even harder for online sellers than it is for the high street.
Loyalty schemes are nothing new, but they can work. Buy seven coffees at your local café and get one free. Or get a 25 percent discount on your next purchase over €50 at a clothing store. These types of schemes intend to delight, but their prevalence has reduced the capacity to do so.
This applies to online loyalty schemes too. Popularity and prevalence means these tactics no longer please customers like they used to.
Buyers have access to millions of sellers online offering even more products. How do you generate repeat business in such a hyper-competitive environment? How do you make your online sales business stand out from the crowd? What strategy can you follow to surprise and delight your customers?
How ‘Surprise and Delight’ creates loyal customers
‘Surprise and delight’ is a strategy that gives customers unanticipated perks to renew interest in their products and services and to amplify messaging, as defined by DMN.
Why is the element of surprise so important? Because it’s addictive.
Surprise changes behavior, it’s cheap, it turbocharges emotions, and fuels more passionate relationships between customers and brands, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Research by Gartner Group shows that successfully retaining customers is a key driver of profit. An increase of five percent in customer retention can lead to anywhere between 5% to 125% increases in profits.
If implemented carefully and effectively, surprise and delight can create a cycle of happiness for your business.
A surprise-and-delight strategy has three core purposes:
- Make customers more loyal
- Create higher-spending customers
- Motivate word-of-mouth marketing
If employed effectively, it generates one of the most powerful forms of marketing — word of mouth.
For the generation that relies on social proof before purchasing products and using websites, successful word-of-mouth marketing is gold. If your experiences with customers are impactful enough that they share it with others, one act of kindness could become amplified to thousands of new potential customers.
In short, keep your current customers happy, incentivize them to spend more, and delight them enough that they will tell their friends, thus creating more business and exposure for you.
‘Surprise and Delight’ and Customer Support
The eCommerce giants like Amazon have standardized (and raised the bar on) many previous competitive differentiators like product quality, delivery times and packaging, to name a few.
The online customer is spoilt for choice, and for experience. But there is one area you can start owning today — customer support.
Customer support queries are home to the most irate, dissatisfied, confused, inquisitive and interested segment of your audience. It’s the perfect venue to launch a surprise-and-delight strategy.
Delighting a customer takes a lot of thought and effort. That’s why you should couple it with surprise, because you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, do it every time. But when you sense an opportunity to surprise and delight, you should take it.
‘Surprise and delight’ as a technique is rooted in consumer behavior theory. The strategy tends to be used at point-of-sale or in post-sales communications.
At these stages, the customer has expressed enough interest and desire to buy your product in the first instance. Offering them something extra after the transaction could feel like a bonus. These customers are already somewhat satisfied, and giving them that extra bit of delight could be an easy win for repeat business.
But the real story is if you can change a furious customer’s emotions — take their anger, bypass boredom and ignorance and hurl them straight into the realm of delight.
You can see on the scale below, that turning a customer’s experience from anger to delight is no easy task.
Converting an unhappy customer into a happy one is powerful because it represents a monumental shift in the customer’s experience — and mood. If you could make it happen, it would be a story worth telling.
That’s why applying ‘surprise and delight’ to your customer support experience can be a powerful generator of customer loyalty.
To do it, there are three things you need to identify:
- Your customer’s problem
- How to provide a resolution quickly
- How do you add value to the customer’s experience in a way they wouldn’t normally expect?
The first two points are what you should aim to complete in all of your interactions with a customer.
You can make a customer highly satisfied by swiftly resolving his or her issue. But the third point is where the opportunity lies to surprise and delight your customers.
‘Surprise and Delight’ in eCommerce
The most popular online surprise-and-delight campaigns that still get a lot of traction, are:
- Personalized offers
- Exclusive events
- Random acts of kindness (the best one)
These first two examples are not native to customer support, but can be used within your interactions to please — and appease — your customers. The third example can be the most powerful, and it’s is owned by the customer support team.
Let’s take a look at an example of each strategy.
Providing a personalized offer after a customer has made a purchase shows that you are attempting to build a one-to-one relationship with your customers. You know who they are, what they like and you want to improve their experience by anticipating what they might need.
Sending the offer in a personalized email, and offering them a discount that’s exclusive to them can motivate repeat sales and create loyalty in your customer. Just don’t do it for every purchase. Make the interaction feel unique.
Take a look at the example from Birchbox below.
This is not a generic, ‘you may also like’ email Birchbox has put together.
This is a personal exchange between your company and the seller that is aimed at improving their well-being, rewarding them for their purchasing of your products, and showing them you’re not the average online seller.
It also cleverly frames how it used the customer’s purchase history to make these recommendations — in a transparent and friendly tone.
Providing a customer with a gift or experience that seems too good to be true, and feels like a one-off, creates a stronger bond between the company and the customer. It can also create some hype around your company.
Take Amazon Prime Day, for example. The eCommerce giant took the template of Cyber Monday and created its own huge sales event. Of course, this is not something all businesses can replicate, but there are valuable lessons here.
Amazon rewards its high-spending, most loyal members with a sales bonanza.
To create extra hype around the event, it doesn’t announce the date.
By creating this event exclusive to Prime members, it has driven more signups to its premium membership.
These tactics can be applied to sales businesses of any size. A membership model combined with a sales event, and you have the ability to delight your most loyal buyers and make your business more attractive to new customers.
Here is a simple but highly effective example from sports retailer Pro Direct Sports of how to leverage events specific to your sector to generate more sales.
Pro Direct Sports tries to excite its customers by attaching a time-sensitive deals day for soccer boots, with one of the biggest deadlines in soccer — the English Premier League’s transfer deadline day.
By taking advantage of the existing high levels of interest in the player transfer deadline among its customer base, it attaches its own brand to a popular event and allows customers to act on their sport-related excitement by buying discounted sportswear.
Are there events in your sector that are meaningful to your customers? Join the hype and make more sales. Invite a select number of customers. Use it as a tool to turn your irate customers into happy ones by inviting them to these events after resolving their query.
Random acts of kindness
This strategy is deeply embedded in providing a uniquely delightful customer support experience. When random acts of kindness break into social media — and sometimes even news media — they become marketing gold dust.
How many times have you seen an incredible customer support experience with a company shared on social media or on an entertainment news site?
The value of kindness is immeasurable and unpredictable, but if you can surprise and delight an unhappy customer, instigating a U-turn in the customer’s emotions could motivate them to share their experience and in turn, endorse your brand.
— Erin Fors (@forsie) May 31, 2013
Random acts of kindness can range from handwritten notes (see above) to show your appreciation, to going above and beyond to making the buyer happy (see the Sainsbury’s giraffe bread story).
These acts can be incredibly diverse — no one example fits all. If you get to know and understand your customers and understand their relationship with your products and business, you can deliver one lucky buyer a uniquely surprising and delightful experience today.
Lastly… What is promised by successful use of the ‘surprise and delight’ technique
You gain the power to please your customers to the point where they are grateful for doing business with you.
By creating a sense of gratitude, you create a memorable moment between your business and the customer that goes beyond the transaction — it creates a relationship.
So surprise, delight, and deliver the kind of customer support that inspires gratitude in your customers. Once you achieve that, loyalty will follow.
But loyalty is only good if it lasts, and longevity takes more than tactics.
To fulfil on its promise, the ‘surprise and delight’ technique needs to become part of your company’s DNA.
Will it be a three-month experiment where you changed things up a little? Or will it become the reflex you’ve instilled in your company that inspires your customers to tell their friends, and delivers the results it promised?
It’s time to start thinking beyond the transaction. In a space where loyalty is scarce, a little extra can go a long way.