I have some great friends. The kind that forgive me, even when I say the wrong thing or forget an important date. These mishaps are easy to overlook when you’ve built up equity in a relationship. Brands operate much the same way. Brands that have built a relationship with their customers’ fare better when they fail to meet expectations. We call these friends of your business, brand ambassadors and they’re the champions of your brand.
If you succeed in creating brand ambassadors, the benefits are plentiful. These people will fiercely advocate for you, they’ll give you 5-star reviews, chat about you on social media and recommend you to everyone and anyone. They’ll also give you a second chance if something goes wrong.
How can you turn your consumers into brand ambassadors?
Creating brand ambassadors is similar to making friends in your personal life. It takes time, energy and thoughtfulness. In order to convert anyone from being a casual acquaintance to a loyal companion, you need to put in the time and effort.
Offer excellent customer service
Don’t be adequate…be exceptional. If you want customers to be singing your praises you have to do more than just meet expectations, you need to exceed them.
Zappos is an example of a brand that is doing this right. Their customer service is so legendary that they’ve become known as the company with the best customer service in the world.
If you make your way to Zappos.com you’ll see that this is an eCommerce website selling shoes and clothing from a variety of different brands. The website is easy to use but there isn’t anything overly remarkable about it. What is remarkable, is how they’ve built their success.
Zappo’s describes themselves as being maniacally obsessed with making sure their customers are happy and proud to do business with them. It’s all about the WOW factor and they’ve put specific practices in place to make sure they deliver more than just products.
Here’s how they created an army of brand ambassadors:
- They employ an entire team of call centre staff that is dedicated to wowing shoppers. When you call, a real live person answers – 24/7.
- Phone calls are encouraged. In fact, their phone number is on every page of their website.
- They don’t use scripts; all calls are authentic conversations about all sorts of things. And it’s not uncommon to get a lovely card in the mail if you happen to mention a birthday or other special event.
- You can return anything you’ve bought and haven’t used for 365 days!
- Free shipping. Free returns. This is arguably their biggest differentiator between them and other ecommerce competitors.
To see how they describe their customer service in their own words, check out this article and read more about their obsessive, maniacal and radical approach to wowing consumers.
Connect with Your Consumers
Now more than ever, people expect brands to have an online presence. Not only do they want to learn more about you, but they also want to have a way to connect with you. In our digital world, businesses that adapt and create a positive online presence, will convert one time customers into lifelong brand friends. Here are some ways to reach your customers online:
Respond to reviews
One of the easiest ways to build a rapport with your customers is to respond to reviews. According to BrightLocal 86% of consumers read online reviews before they make a purchase. Of those, 89% will read the businesses response to reviews. This gives you a huge opportunity to talk directly to your target audience.
For many business owners, a bad review is like a punch in the stomach. But good reviews are glazed over and mostly ignored. This is a missed opportunity. When someone gives you a positive review, they’ve been impressed enough to go out of their way to tell others. Don’t just click the like button and move on; take a few minutes to show real gratitude. Not only will this encourage others to give you great reviews but it improves your likeability. The other upside is that the reviewer may go from being just happy customer to an all-out brand ambassador.
Here are some tips for answering a great review.
- Be authentic. Write in a friendly, personal manner, like how you would interact with a good friend.
- Use their name. People respond to their own names, so whenever possible start each response by greeting them personally.
- Show appreciation. Thank them for using your product or service and for writing a nice review.
- Provide value. Tell them about something coming up they may be interested in or fill them in on additional product details.
- Acknowledge specific details. For example, if you own a restaurant and they really enjoyed a particular dish, tell them a bit more about it.
- Invite them back. Let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them again.
- Sign off using your name and your title.
It would be great if all you ever received were 5-star reviews but sooner or later, a negative one will rear its ugly head. When this happens it’s important to respond appropriately. In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review found that businesses that respond to reviews, regardless of if they are good or bad, increase the number of reviews they get and their overall rating score goes up.
Think of bad reviews as an opportunity to learn about your business, improve your customer service skills and even perhaps win back a disgruntled consumer. But, take care, saying the wrong thing will just add fuel to the fire.
Here are some tips for responding to a not so nice review:
- Take your time. It’s easy to have an emotional reaction to a bad review, especially if you think it is unfair or wrong. It’s important to have a clear head when responding.
- Respond publically. It may be tempting to ask them to email you directly or respond to them privately but a negative review is an opportunity to show others that you take customer satisfaction seriously.
- Address them by their first name. It’s important to personalize the response and try to create a rapport.
- Show empathy. From their perspective, you didn’t meet their expectations. Thank them for writing a review and always offer an apology.
- No excuses, only solutions. It might feel like a good idea to place the blame on a vendor or some other circumstance beyond your control. It’s better to show you’ve learned something and you’re making changes so that it doesn’t happen again.
- Appease them. If your business is in the wrong, this is a chance to make it right. Let them know you’d like to have the opportunity to rectify the situation and provide a way that they can contact you to discuss further.
- Sign off using your name and title.
Be engaged on social media
Social media is a great way to reach your audience and humanize your brand. According to We Are Social and Hootsuite, there are now over 4 billion people worldwide using the internet. And get this – 3 billion of these users are signed up to at least one form of social media!
If you think about your own social media feeds and who you follow or like, you can probably see some great examples of businesses that are excelling on social. These pages’ post often and you develop a connection with them. They become top of mind and you’d recommend their product or service to friends. These businesses have succeeded into turning you into a brand ambassador.
But, you might follow some that you’ve forgotten all about – those companies have neglected you and its resulted in a failed opportunity.
Consumers expect you to be on social media. They want to communicate with you through this channel. And even though, your time is already stretched thin, investing in social media is well worth the effort.
Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to social media:
- Commit to it. In order to be successful in social media you need to log on and tune it.
- Show your personality and talk to your audience in their language
- Listen and share, rather than sell and promote
There are tons of ways to effectively communicate on social platforms, but that is a whole other blog in itself. In the meantime, here’s a great guide that will be beneficial to beginners.
Employees are your front line brand friends
The internal culture of your workplace is a big component of your overall brand. Good or bad, it will flow out into the marketplace. Be mindful to create an environment where employees feel valued and part of the big picture. A company with a reputation for treating their employees well, will gain respect and grow a loyal following of brand ambassadors.
In the retail world, one of the giants has perfected employee relations. Costco, pays a living wage, offers benefits and promotes from within; proving that by making your employees a priority, you are building a better, stronger brand.
In contrast, a company that mistreats its employees, will struggle to build brand ambassadors.
It takes a lot to impress customers these days. But companies that engage with their target audience in an authentic way, will stand out. Ask for your customer’s feedback and take it seriously, solve problems and connect on an emotional level. It’s not enough to just deliver good quality and value for a fair price, you need to make a real effort to connect with your customers in order to turn them into fierce advocates.
It takes a lot to impress customers these days and convert them from a one-time customer to a full on brand advocate. But companies that engage with their target audience in an authentic way, will stand out. Ask for your customer’s feedback and take it seriously, solve problems and connect on an emotional level. It’s not enough to just deliver good quality and value for a fair price, you need to make a real effort to connect with your customers in order to turn them into fierce advocates.
“Be the person your dog thinks you are.”
This simple message hangs in my son’s room and it applies here too. I challenge you to be the company that your brand ambassadors think you are and your competition won’t know what hit them.