The convenience store industry continues to evolve and where it ends up as robotics and personalized delivery gain traction is anyone’s guess. But one thing for sure is that how customers feel about your brand and your services will likely determine where they make their purchases.
Robbie Kellman Baxter, a business consultant focused on how to engage customers, said retail companies must get very intentional about keeping customers engaged with their brand. Capturing customers is hard enough, but keeping that customer is even tougher. For one thing, so many competitors crowd the marketplace that consumers can quickly and easily find another option. For another, customers simply expect more. They demand quick service, great experiences, and plenty of personalization and perks.
Plus, it doesn’t take much to lose a customer. They don’t have to have a bad experience; many customers leave because of indifference they perceive on the part of a sales associate.
“It used to be that if you offered a good product or service and just did a good job, that was enough to keep customers happy,” said Baxter, author of “The Membership Economy: Find Your Superusers, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue.” “But now, constant engagement is crucial for creating those forever transactions with customers.”
Whether they realize it or not, customers crave more value from their relationship with brands, and brands must find innovative ways to provide it. Once you get customers emotionally invested they will stick with your brand, buy more and spread the word about you to other potential customers. This provides a much greater ROI than your efforts to acquire new customers.
“You have to work at making existing customers feel special,” said Baxter. “You absolutely cannot ever take them for granted.”
The push for exceptional customer experiences is part of a shift toward what Baxter calls the Membership Economy, a model based on customer-centric strategy using topics like price, inclusiveness and digital platforms that draw people in and win their loyalty. People today expect to be engaged, and if they don’t experience engagement with your brand, they will find it somewhere else.
This is where the Customer Success function comes in. Not to be confused with Customer Service—which mostly handles complaints when the customer has a problem—Customer Success Managers (CSMs) foster engagement by being the consumer’s insider to the brand. With social media being such a preferred mode of communication for today’s consumers, CSMs can help put out fires and control the dialogue.
If you want to engage with your customers and build a deeper level of loyalty, Customer Success may be a smart solution. According to Baxter, Customer Success will accomplish three things:
Customer Success focuses on the customer’s experience, not just retention. Trying to win a customer back after they’ve moved on to another brand is very hard, Baxter said. “It’s much easier to make sure they stay engaged in your brand, which is where things like loyalty programs come into play.
Customer Success treats the consumer like a friend. A CSM is ultimately judged on customer engagement, which is a leading indicator of retention, which leads to revenue and profitability.
Customer Success generates profits while building relationships. From the moment of the initial transaction, CSMs are reaching out to customers to ensure they are getting value from the relationship. At convenience store chains this could mean engaging customers on social media, through couponing with text messages or customer intercepts.
Connecting with customers at all points where they interact with your brand is crucial for strengthening their attachment to your brand.
“Many chains now recognize that long-term engagement is the way to build deeper customer loyalty,” Baxter said. “Keeping in touch with your customers and helping them get the most from your brand shows them that you really do care and makes them feel good about sticking with you.”