Most of us are familiar with the Net Promoter Score question: On a scale of one to ten, what is the likelihood that you would recommend us to a friend or associate?
Fred Reichheld refers to that as the “Ultimate Question.” A high score of a nine or 10 indicates that the customer is willing to evangelize your brand. In other words, they would be willing to recommend you to others and maybe even leave a positive comment on one of the many social media channels. That may be marketing, but the interesting thing about it is that it doesn’t come from the marketing department, expensive mailings, or special promotions. It simply comes from the hard work of employees who are focused on delivering their company’s brand promise.
For example, Ace Hardware has a tagline, which is also their promise to the customer, to be “The Helpful Hardware Place.” Helpful is its promise and its brand. The retailer hires right, trains its employees, and trust them to deliver on the promise of being the most helpful hardware stores on the planet. When this is done well, and it usually is, customers come back and tell their friends, associates, and family members. It helps Ace compete against big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. It’s what separates Ace from its competition. The company’s best marketing comes from the experiences its employees, known as associates, deliver to their customers. Ace Hardware’s goal isn’t to have satisfied customers. The retailer wants loyal customers who come back again and again and evangelize the brand.
One of the big lessons I’ve taught and preached over the years is about customer loyalty. In short, people think of loyalty as a customer for a lifetime, but it is really much simpler than that. It’s about the next time, every time. I even have a simple question that reinforces this concept, which I refer to as The Loyalty Question:
Is what I’m doing right now going to get the customer to come back the next time he or she needs whatever it is that I sell?
It’s all about what’s happening right now, and what is going to happen the very next time. Practicing this concept over time creates lifetime customers. The responsibility falls 100% on the shoulders of the employee who at that particular moment is interacting with the customer. Be it a sending a marketing communication, handling a complaint, responding to a customer service question, hosting a sales call, etc., this is the moment of truth. And, more than the customer coming back to do more business, would they be willing to recommend a brand—ideally without someone from the company having to ask for the recommendation.
Well, today there is a twist on The Loyalty Question. Thanks to technology, which has brought us social media and various websites, we can now spin this question a different way. I refer to this as The Evangelist Question:
Is what I’m doing right now going to make the customer want to leave a review on Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, etc.?
In other words, is your customer willing to evangelize on your behalf? More than just recommend you, is your customer willing to give you a positive review via social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, or websites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Angie’s List?
And, if that review is positive, then you have the answer you want (and hope for) to both the Loyalty Question and the Evangelist Question. A positive review means the customer will be willing to return.
This is an important concept for both B2C and B2B businesses. Most people would think that social media sites and websites are primarily focused on retailers selling to consumers. B2B must think more broadly and realize that there are industry magazines, bloggers, and even industry conferences where customers will “review” you and your company, hopefully sharing their positive experiences with their peers.
Today is an era of communication that is different than even just a few years ago. Social media channels have become the norm. People will “talk” on these channels, sharing their good and bad experiences with others, in both private and public forums. There is no way around it, so why not embrace it. Create a customer service experience that is so good that it compels your customers to want to share their positive experiences with others. The benefit to your company is word of mouth—that favorite asset of marketers, where customers evangelize on their behalf, creating credible social proof that someone should want to do business with their brand.