The other day I was talking about mapping content and marketing to the buyer’s journey with Alexandra. Alexandra mentioned what comes after the purchase, and that’s when we began to discuss the role of creating and cultivating brand loyalty. We then had a fascinating discussion about the role that empathy for the customer plays in creating and cultivating loyal customers. I started doing some research into empathy and I wanted to do a deeper dive into the topic here.
Let’s first examine some of the drivers of brand loyalty:
- We trust the brand. This trust can be established via a consistent experience, customer support, following through on brand promises, etc.
- We relate to the brand. Here we feel we have common interests and values as the brand We feel as if what’s important to us is also important to the brand.
- We feel that the brand acknowledges us and appreciates us. They listen to us, they communicate they hear our feedback and act on it. This also leads to us feeling a vested interest in what happens to the brand. We will promote it to other customers, we will defend it against criticism.
Now let’s look at empathy. According to Greater Good Magazine, empathy is “used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.” All of this ties into the drivers for brand loyalty; Trust, understanding, being able to relate to the brand.
Empathy for the customer is a paramount skill to have if you are working in customer service. And quite often, customer service is called upon post-purchase, by the customer. Which is also the point at which brand loyalty often is created or enhanced.
A big part of showing empathy to someone is making sure that person understands that you are listening to them, and you are being considerate of their feelings. Whenever I consult with companies on addressing customer complaints, I always stress to them that the company should never apologize unless they actually did something wrong. I tell clients to focus on listening to the customer, and making sure they know that you are listening. That’s far more important than simply saying ‘sorry’. Upset customers want to know that you are listening to them, that you have heard and understood WHY they are upset, and that you give the customer a solution for their complaint. Starting a customer service interaction by saying “Well I’m sorry that happened to you!’ and then NOT solving their problem, can actually lead to more anger and frustration for the customer. Communicating that you are listening is more important than saying you are sorry.
Taking the time to listen shows that you DO care. It’s critical that your brand listens to its customers, especially when they contact customer service, post-purchase. It’s also important that even though the customer is very likely upset, the main thing the average customer wants when reaching out to customer service, is a rep who will listen and understand why they are upset. This communicates that the brand values that customer and their feelings.
Feeling appreciated is one of the key drivers of brand loyalty. Also keep in mind that everyone, your customers, your employees, we are all under additional pressure and stress right now. Communicating you appreciate others has never been more important. And it will never be more appreciated by others.