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Yesterday, I received the following email from a customer, whom I had spoken with on the phone earlier when she was having trouble with a discount code: “This company is a true old fashion customer service company. They have been helpful and a delight to work with. We highly recommend them and their products.” Her use of the term “old fashioned” stuck with me because I have often used this term to describe the type of customer experience we hope to create. While the term “old-fashioned” is commonly used to refer to something outdated with negative connotations, we think tried and true business practices can help deliver value and create a competitive advantage in an increasingly impersonal business environment.
Here are five ways to deliver greater value to your customers:
Know your customer
The best products come from a deep understanding of the consumers you serve. Regardless of industry, the more informed you are about who buys your product, the more targeted you can be with your strategy.
Ultimately, businesses exist to solve problems for people, and the more you understand the problem your consumer needs solved, the better your company’s solution can be.
At SodaPup, one of our “deep insights” was simply that dog owners are a very diverse group of people. Rather than treating all dog owners alike, we have segmented our consumers and built product lines specifically for each segment. In other words, we build dog toys for people, not for dogs.
Product is king (and should solve a problem)
Brands are built on a foundation of trust. While you might be able to attract new customers to make their first purchase using an effective marketing campaign, you won’t retain these customers if your products don’t meet their expectations. To build a sustainable business, you must have high quality products that work and which solve customer problems.
At SodaPup, we are focused on solving two customer problems:
- Dogs that destroy everything! We have built brand loyalty by creating high quality products that cannot be destroyed. I received this email last week: “Thank goodness we found you. My dog destroyed every other toy we’ve given him!” Priceless feedback, and a consumer problem solved.
- Product safety. Since consumers treat their dogs as family members, they are increasingly concerned about the safety of their pet’s toys, especially those being imported from China. At SodaPup, we adhere to safety practices that parallel children’s toy policies and we exclusively use FDA compliant materials that are safe for children.
How does your product hone in on and provide a solution to a common customer problem? Figuring this out is key in establishing trust, which will in turn result in customer loyalty and return purchases.
Related: How These 4 Startups Pivoted to Secure Customer Loyalty During the Pandemic (and How You Can, Too)
Provide your customers with a satisfaction guarantee
If you have faith in your product, then you should be willing to stand behind it with a generous guarantee. This gives consumers greater confidence to try your products and will increase sales with little additional cost. After all, if your product or service is as good as you think it is, by providing a satisfaction guarantee, you’re giving people more reason to take that leap and make a purchase with you. It is a highly effective, low cost selling strategy.
For example, SodaPup offers a no questions asked 30-day replacement guarantee, and our return rate is well below 1%. When people do return a product, it gives us an opportunity to surprise and delight them, further building trust and cementing our relationship.
Give them what they want
Beyond the product itself, there may be other things that consumers want that you can integrate into your overall brand strategy. For example, if your audience skews younger, you may consider the fact that Gen Z and millennial audiences are willing to pay a higher price for sustainable products.
These younger consumers in particular believe that they can incrementally make change in the world through their consumer behavior. In other words, they expect businesses to be forces for positive change and they align their spending with those companies and brands that they identify with.
Here are some of the current macro trends that you can consider taking advantage of to appeal to these conscious consumers in order to create a competitive advantage:
- Made in the U.S.: Over the last several years, consumers have started waking up to the fact that while we can buy products made overseas for less money, it comes at a social, environmental and geopolitical cost. As a result, many consumers strongly favor and support American-made brands, especially those made at a local level.
- Environmentally friendly: Consumers around the globe are increasingly alarmed by the consequences of global warming and want to do their part to lighten their consumer footprint. At SodaPup, we have a number of initiatives which include using sustainable and recyclable materials, reducing packaging waste and giving consumers the option to offset their purchases with carbon offsets. Consider how you can implement similar practices in your own business. You may even consider becoming a B Corp.
- Giving back: Consumers today expect businesses to give back to the communities where they do business. Entrepreneurs should consider what community contributions make sense for them and how those contributions can enhance their brand. For instance, we specifically give back to dog-related charities and working dog organizations. Whatever programs you choose to support, they should be aligned with your overall brand mission.
Provide personal customer service
Personalized customer service is perhaps the most notable loss in business with the advent of automation. We can all identify with calling a 1-800 number and getting bounced around from one automated response to another and ultimately not getting the help we need.
I believe that highly personalized customer service is an amazing competitive tool, and it’s very old fashioned. This is the one time when consumers need to talk to a “real person,” so you should be there for them in their time of need! What better way to build brand loyalty than with a personal interaction when consumers need help?
While you and your team may not be able to provide this level of hands on customer service as you grow, it’s a great way to establish customer loyalty at the onset of your business.
Key takeaways: Put your customers at the center of your brand
Back in the “old days,” businesses put consumers at the center of their businesses. As the world has become more digital and more automated, we sometimes forget that brands exist to serve their consumers; and therefore, consumers should be at the center of all that you do.
Whether it is your segmentation strategy, your product strategy, your sourcing strategy, your customer service strategy, your product guarantee or your customer service model, your first question should always be, “What would our customers prefer?”This is what we try to do at SodaPup, and so far, it has served us well.
When it comes to setting your brand apart in a crowded marketplace, use the above tips to deliver true value to your target customer. Problem solving, personalization and customer service all go a long way in establishing customer loyalty, and those customers will continue to come back to your business for years to come.