On Black Friday, as I contemplated people shopping ’til they dropped for great deals on all the must-haves, I kept coming back to a conversation I had with a Harvest Trends client on the day before Thanksgiving. We both, at almost the same moment, had the same thought: what if retailers used the same methods to drive revenue from existing customers as casinos do with their best customers via Player Development.
I know that some companies are doing some of these things (heck, the airlines really started the whole loyalty marketing thing in the first place, didn’t they? OR was it the credit card companies?), but in my experience, it doesn’t run very deep. Social media has certainly changed the landscape when it comes to communications between consumers and the folks with whom they do business. I believe, however, the implementation of all the steps on this list would generate a significant return, as it would set that retailer apart from the rest.
Here are 10 steps retailers could take from PD to drive more loyalty (and more revenue!):
- Drill into your data and determine which customers make up the top 20% of your sales. Focus first on securing the loyalty of those customers because they are keeping your power on, your doors open, and your paychecks coming.
- Look at their buying habits and determine what they might be worth to you if they purchased everything available in your store FROM YOU. Obviously, you aren’t going to get 100% of someone’s spend (on whatever, be it clothes, electronics, furniture, food, entertainment, toys, literally any category) but if you do it right, you can make them think of you first if they need or want something you sell.
- Put together a loyalty program in whatever form works best for your company’s business model. Call center(s), targeted mailings, social media followings, events, membership cards, special discounts, points, custom links on your website, free stuff…any or all of these could be included in your program.
- Find some fantastic personalities to get the conversation started. Whether you communicate with your best customers primarily via e-mail, snail mail or phone call, you want bright, energetic, responsive and customer-service oriented people communicating with these VIPs. Then get those superstars on the phones or dropping mail or creating dynamic internet campaigns to drive the loyal customers back to you.
- Close the feedback loop. Monitor social media interactions (an agency is a good pick here if you have the funds available), ask your customer service interaction team to keep you posted if they hear the same complaint often enough to create a pattern, and train your people to make your customers happy based on their lifetime worth to you and where they are in the life cycle of that spend.
- Set goals for the customer service team to reach. Many things could be considered in goal-setting, much like in Casino Player Development. It makes sense to start with things the team can actually control, like issue resolution, number of customers contacted, customer satisfaction scores, and sales figures. Analyze the behaviors of the Top 20% and set goals that are a bit of a stretch, but still achievable.
- Monitor and adjust as needed. Often, in Casino Player Development, you lose customers (they move away, lose a job, have new families, etc.) and you might need to shift your focus. Adjust the program to reward first-time buyers or make offer changes if you aren’t getting the results you expected. Use analytics to find the money that’s on the table and plan ways to pick it up.
- Try to remain-customer focused so you don’t lose your way. When your loyal customers tell you what they do or do not like about your practices, please listen to them. Clearly you can’t give in to their every whim, but when someone loyal to your establishment complains to you about a thing they find to be objectionable, they are asking you to give them a reason to continue doing business with you. How you respond will directly affect how much longer they will do so.
- Let your people know when they’ve done well and hold them to task when they haven’t. The last part is the most difficult for me, but I have learned that you do no one any favors if you don’t create accountability. Ensure that the work gets done as it should, let your people know they’re important to both you and the company. Tell them when customers say they’ve been outstanding and share the pain of the inevitable defeat. Then everyone can get up, dust themselves off and get back to work.
- Remember to have fun with it! This is of the utmost importance. Many writers of customer service advice cite Southwest Airlines as a good example of a great many things, and this is one thing they do better than anyone else I’ve experienced. Happy helpers make happy customers, and a sunshiny demeanor is something even the angriest of customers responds to, however reluctantly. Make sure the people who provide customer service in the name of your company have smiles on their faces whenever possible. It’s easier to do if everyone is enjoying themselves.
Did I forget anything, PD pros? Retail veterans, what do you think?