We hope you’ve already had your morning cup of coffee, otherwise this post will leave you hankering for one. Even though the coffee isn’t as good as another other place, Chris Hitchcock, managing director at Switched On Media, just keeps coming back to the same cafe. Why? In this opinion piece he argues the multiple lessons in customer loyalty brands should really tap into.
I, like many across the nation, have a penchant for an early-morning coffee. I had always been a tea man until I arrived on these fair shores, and within a year I’d converted to the lure of a fine roast. That probably says more about the standard of coffee in the UK than anything else. Either way, it’s now become a morning ritual.
Every day as I roll into the office, I’m faced with a perplexing conundrum. Two competing cafe options vie for total control of my caffeine habit, in an ongoing battle that likely afflicts everyone in our building. One is at the main entrance; the other, 150 yards away. Both different and both frequented by myself and my wider team.
The cafe inside the building is always queued, always busy and buzzing. However, to quote a colleague, “The coffee’s crap there, Chris”. And yet despite this, I always find myself compelled to go inside, to the point where it’s now become my ‘go-to’ place.
The answer is summed up nicely by said colleague, who follows with, “Good customer service, though”. He’s right, they do offer good customer service – they’re bloody great at it, in fact. And therein lies the answer to my question.
So what makes their customer service so remarkable?
The barista knows my name and order, as well as about my job, my suburb, my fiancé, even my football team. She makes a real effort to engage with me, the customer, on a personal level. She’s genuinely interested in me and my business, and delivering a friendly, vibrant experience that’s warm welcome on a dreary Monday morning. To be met with, “Chris, how are you? Good weekend? Usual order?” always provides a lift.
This is what keeps me going back, despite the standard of coffee.
The alternative cafe? Better coffee, yes, but with none of the above.
When I have on occasion crossed to ‘the dark side’ and visited this other coffee shop, I’m often consumed with guilt about my choice. Finding myself in the ludicrous situation of avoiding our building’s entrance (so as not to alert them to my defection), it sometimes feels like a sordid affair… That always ends with me returning to my rightful place.
Point is – how you’re treated matters a great deal for customer experience and brand loyalty. Even more so in the purchasing cycle for expendable items, and of course in securing repeat business.
Brands versed in the art of customer service and building relationships get to know their customers, are eager and open about feedback, and work to forge a bond. This promotes a welcoming atmosphere, upping the surprise and delight factor; whereas poor customer service can facilitate a barrier to entry – which can stop customers purchasing from you at all.
These are key lessons for any brand to learn.
This isn’t just relevant to brick-and-mortar businesses, either. When it comes to digital, the customer experience is paramount. Often, you have mere seconds for your brand to make an impact. Hooking audiences with helpful, relevant and ultimately irresistible content, supported by intuitive design, is key.
Now, don’t take this as me suggesting that customer service is more important than product. If your product is rubbish, then you will eventually fail. But prioritising top customer service will always facilitate growth, and in a contest might just sway a decision your way.
Remember, it’s never just a product you’re selling – it’s the brand as a whole. And the businesses that succeed are the ones that put people, relationships and service front and centre.