Satisfaction Does Not Guarantee Loyalty
Customer satisfaction should not be your goal. That’s the premise of the new book From Impressed to Obsessed: 12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees into Lifelong Fans, by Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting. Picoult explores the cognitive science behind great customer experiences, pinpointing the psychology-based strategies that widely admired firms use to create unforgettable impressions that turn prospects into customers and customers into obsessed brand ambassadors. CRM editor Leonard Klie recently spoke with Picoult to learn more about his perspective.
CRM: In the book, you say companies must impress their customers. What does that mean, and how do companies do that?
Picoult: Great, successful companies recognize that they’re not just in the business of shaping customers’ experiences, they’re in the business of shaping customers’ memories. How you remember your experience with a business is arguably more important than the experience itself because memories ultimately drive the repurchase and referral behavior that’s the lifeblood of any thriving company.
Forging those memories requires leaving an indelible positive impression in the minds of customers. Smart companies use principles of cognitive science to accomplish that, creating experiences that people both enjoy in the moment and remember fondly long afterward.
You also say that it is no longer enough to just satisfy customers. What has changed, and why?
If you’re aspiring to satisfy your customers, then you’re aspiring to mediocrity. Satisfied customers defect from businesses all the time. And while that’s long been true, it’s a dynamic that’s more pronounced thanks to today’s increasingly empowered consumers who can research and sometimes even switch to alternative products with just a few taps on a smartphone.
You offer 12 principles for turning customers into fans and advocates. Can you walk us through each of these?
After years of studying companies that do customer experience well, I found that they’re all employing very similar techniques. With the “12 Principles,” I sought to distill those techniques into a handful of actionable strategies—essentially, a psychology-based road map for creating brand experiences that are both impressive and memorable. While the book delves deeply into each principle (and describes the not-so-obvious ways they can be employed), here’s the gist of each:
- Create peaks and avoid valleys.People remember their experiences as a series of “snapshots” that capture the high and low points in the encounter. Thoughtfully choreographing those peaks and valleys is the key to memory-making.
- Finish strong.People also remember the final part of an experience, and it influences their overall impression in a disproportionate way, so it’s critical to end customer interactions on a high note.
- Make it effortless.The more effort people have to expend buying, using, or servicing your product, the less likely they are to be loyal to you.
- Keep it simple.People crave simplicity. We’re more likely to find appeal in products, services, and communications that are easy to comprehend.
- Stir emotion.When you make customers feel good or special in some way, they’re more likely to remember the interaction positively and feel greater loyalty as a result.
- Give the perception of control.We’re control freaks; people don’t like ambiguity and uncertainty. If you give customers the sense that they’re in control of an experience, they’ll view the encounter more favorably.
- Be an advocate.Customers love it when they see businesses advocating on their behalf. It makes them feel like they’ve got someone in their corner, fighting for them, and that creates a peak they remember.
- Create relevance.Build customer engagement by delivering an experience that’s highly relevant—that aligns well with their needs, wants, and aspirations.
- Pay attention to the details.Small, subtle details (e.g., sounds, smells, facial expressions, physical environs) can have a powerful influence on customer impressions, so manage those cues carefully.
- Personalize the experience.Show customers that they’re more than just a number or a revenue source. Tailor the experience to reflect individual needs and preferences.
- Deliver pleasant surprises.Assuming a customer’s basic needs are met, throwing in unexpected extras can help make the experience more memorable and foster positive word of mouth.
- Recover with style.When the customer experience goes awry, but the company can “overcorrect” on the recovery, it can actually create an even more loyal customer than before the failure occurred.
What is your strategy for building loyalty?
Focus on how customers feel after interacting with your business. Companies tend to concentrate on the rational dimension of purchase (and repurchase) behavior. However, the emotional dimension is far more influential. It doesn’t matter if your customer service unit consistently answers incoming calls in 10 seconds or less; if, at the end of the interaction, the customer feels unvalued, anxious, exploited, that’s going to taint the experience and sap their loyalty, no matter how fast the answer came.
What is the one message you want readers to get from this book?
Customer satisfaction should not be your goal. If anything, that’s a one-way ticket to the business graveyard. Instead, focus on impressing customers—creating great, indelible memories that’ll make them want to do business with you again and tell others about you. And, given how low the customer experience bar is set in many industries, those types of loyalty-enhancing impressions can be forged in surprisingly subtle, low-cost ways.