Customer Service, Not Price, Drives Brand Loyalty
By Summer Dennis
It’s a question that executives in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry ask themselves every day. In a world filled with nearly limitless choices, what motivates consumers to select one product over another?
For some shoppers, it’s a no-brainer: Just go with the brand name you know and trust. Thrifty patrons might choose a bargain discount, regardless of what name is on the box.
But for many, the choice can come down to a cluster of criteria, including price, but ultimately decided by a quality that tracks back to an underappreciated and often overlooked intangible – customer service. In a price-driven industry, CPG brands vie for consumer attention alongside competitors that often have the luxury of offering their products for the lowest possible cost.
Smaller and mid-size CPG brands can make their mark is by building loyalty the old-fashioned way – earning it through quality interaction with consumers. Whether it be by phone, social media or live chat, companies today have more opportunities than ever to foster deeper connections with their customer base.
Crafting the Customer Experience
In today’s technology-driven world, many CPG brands fail to utilize valuable tools that can make the difference between potential customers choosing their product over a competitor’s.
The most important influence in a customer’s decision making process is how positive their association with a brand is. Such experiences can help build a relationship that lasts a lifetime, but few CPG brands realize it starts before a consumer ever enters a store.
To create the opportunity for consumers to interact with and become familiar with a product, CPG brands must first create a way to facilitate communication. That means utilizing the latest self-service options. By investing in the infrastructure of their websites, CPG brands can better position themselves to be the go-to choice for customers, thereby laying the foundation for lasting loyalty.
A good example of this is Goodyear Tires. To most consumers, a tire is a tire is a tire. Few people ask their mechanic what brand tire they would recommend. They immediately go for the most cost-effective option. Goodyear recognized this, and upgraded its website to make the purchasing process as seamless as possible. Customers can now enter their automobile information and receive an online recommendation for the best tire to fit their need. They can then make an appointment at a local Goodyear shop so that the right tire is already waiting when they arrive. And they can do this all without ever speaking to a sales representative.
At Inktel, we have received feedback from several customers who said they only shop at Goodyear now because the process is so easy.
Get Proactive on Social Media
Social media users represent a vast and often untapped network of new customers and potential brand loyalists. For CPG brands, it’s not enough to simply wait for someone to comment on your product. You must be proactive and make the first move. If a consumer posts a photo wearing a specific pair of shoes, the brand owner should make a point to respond with a comment such as “Great pic!” or “love the shoes!”
Social media representatives must be aware of always communicating in a unified brand voice that promotes a positive interaction. Further, brands should take the time to identify followers who have been longtime brand advocates and send them free products, which can be a win-win for both the company and the consumer. Brands have the opportunity to offload excess inventory while making a customer very happy.
Hire the Right People
Quality customer service doesn’t have to be costly. It all comes down to hiring the best possible brand representatives. If you want to be able to train quickly while preserving the customer experience, you need to hire the right people. That means identifying characteristics that imbue people who truly enjoy working with the public. CPG brands can save time and money by hiring people with a passion for customer service.
During the interview process, make a point to notice if the candidate is smiling when they speak. Pay attention to specific cues that often reflect a positive attitude. Role play, just to see how they might respond in a specific customer call-in scenario.
Little Things Get Remembered
When vying for consumer retention and loyalty, CPG brands should always remember that is the small touches that create a positive association in the consumer’s mind. It can be as simple as offering a coupon for a complimentary new product to every customer who calls a brand’s help lines. Not only has the brand addressed and satisfied the caller’s issue, but now it has presented them with a free opportunity to try a new product, thereby possibly expanding that purchasing loyalty on multiple fronts.
Incorporating rewards into marketing strategies is an efficient, and cost-effective, way to create a memorable connection. For instance, a popular add-on in the CPG industry is the recipe. Forward-thinking brands can utilize a recipe to spark a slow-moving product. For example, say your brand has a surplus of frozen broccoli. Place a recipe for broccoli casserole on a bottle of mayonnaise and now consumers are buying two products instead of one.
When surveying the landscape for ways to better attract and retain loyal consumers, CPG brands have everything they need within reach. It’s just a matter of putting the right pieces together to create that memorable customer experience that will reap dividends.
Summer Dennis is President and COO of Inktel, a provider of third-party customer service solutions.