This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
In Business, this word isn’t used often enough. It’s an emotional word, full of pressure, expectation and questions that most companies aren’t yet focused on answering:
- Will customers really love us?
- Can we really expect that they’ll care about us when we’re not around?
- If we aren’t loved, how could we possibly hope to change that?
However, at Apptentive, we talk about Customer Love so much we even have a hashtag for it: #customerlove
Customer Love is the key to our approach to our customers, our business and our team. It’s something we strive for every day, because we view love as an act. We know that we have to invest our energy and time in truly demonstrating our love for our customers, to make sure that they feel our care and attention on an ongoing basis.
We’ve written about our thought process and framework for the customer experience before, so the concepts here aren’t all brand new, but this is how I think about delivering on our promise to our customers. It’s really all about the L.O.V.E when it comes to the key actions that are necessary to really deliver Customer Love:
Every great relationship is a two-way street. Unfortunately, too many companies really shy away from this approach to their customer relationships – they talk at, but don’t listen to customers, leading to huge communications gaps. When companies truly invest in listening, across the entire organization, they are able to glean insights and learn more about where they should be going next with their product, service and business.
In addition, true listening means that you’re letting your customers feel heard. It’s natural in business that not every customer is going to agree with you 100%, but that’s understood by customers. At the very least, when they complain or make suggestions, what they’re hoping for is to be heard and understood. Listening is a tool in making customers feel loved because it gives them the knowledge that their opinions matter.
Observation is a crucial trait in understanding the people around you, the teammates you’re working with and your customers. When you observe their behavior in your app, with analytics and log files, you’re able to make conclusions about what is interesting to customers and whether or not your assumptions are correct.
Observation is also about identifying what is truly important to your customers. When you watch how they spend their time, really understanding their lives and their needs, you can build better solutions to their problems and challenges. When you and your organization move to a mode of behavior that’s deeply invested in understanding your customers, your observation skills are often key to those insights that lead to massive improvements in your product.
Validation has a lot to do with how you underscore and invest in the customer’s true needs. When a customer takes the time to tell you what they think, they’re raising their hands and investing in you and your company. It’s absolutely crucial, regardless of their message and thoughts about your company, that you validate them – letting them know that their feelings are valid and that you care. Validation is not about telling them that you’ll do everything they ask for but rather ensuring that your connecting on a level that indicates that you understand they have feelings too. Saying things like, “thanks for that suggestion, we really appreciate it” can go a long way in making your customers feel validated.
Validation also comes in the form of working with your team to take your hypotheses and to share them with customers. Over the past several years, the Lean Startup concept has really taken hold and taught us that when ideas meet customers in an open and accepting manner, products get better faster. The more your team really understands that their work and concepts are for customers first, the more they’ll invest their time in validating their concepts with actual customers to ensure that they’re delivering the best experience possible.
The final action necessary for any team that’s focused on Customer Love is that you must truly engage with your customers. This means reaching out and talking with them proactively. Today, too many companies make it hard to reach them and send messages to customers only to drive sales activities.
However, truly loving companies make a point of reaching out to customers to invite conversations, feedback and venting. When you really embrace customer love, your team wants to talk with more of your customer base and creates opportunities for customers to talk with you. Finding the right time and the right place to really reach your customers makes your customer base feel loved and makes it so easy to talk to you that they can’t help it.
Customer Love is A Requirement, Not An Option
The future of the customer experience requires that every company adapts to the changing times and finds new ways to truly earn customer loyalty. Love is the real requirement – if your customers don’t love you, you need to truly invest in the actions that will get them there. Because customer love is an act, not a static place, every company can work to get there and you’ll have Apptentive there, along the journey, continuing to invest in the actions that have gotten us here so far.