Loyalty360 talks to all types of brands on a regular basis and one of the overarching keys to success among loyalty marketers are truly listening to customers.

Brands can’t go wrong if they truly listen to their respective customers and leverage those insights in a positive fashion.

Loyalty360 talked to Mark Chronister, chief growth officer at Kobie Marketing, about this very theme and its massive importance in the loyalty industry.

Can you talk about the power behind brands truly listening to their customers?

Chronister: Truly listening to your customers and understanding their needs and wants is power in itself. The best way to demonstrate listening is to take action. Create a comprehensive plan and devise solutions that are fundamentally based on the needs of your customer, then find ways to satisfy those needs. After you create a solution, you’ll have loyal customers – they will see that you understand them, can alleviate their pain points, and simplify their lives. That’s the value you can provide as a brand and it all starts with listening.

Many brands say they listen to their customers, but obviously, some execute on this better than others. What is being done well in this area and where do the challenges lie?

Chronister: With today’s technology, customers are connected to information more than ever before. Because of it, they can draw their own understanding and expectations from a multitude of industries, rather than just their own personal areas of expertise. For example, it is now possible to schedule a doctor’s appointment and have medicine prescribed without actually seeing the doctor in person. The availability of a process like this creates an expectation of easy, immediate gratification upon which companies in other industries need to fulfill.

Consumer convenience has become a baseline expectation that brands should listen to. Failure to provide convenience sends a message to the customers that you are not listening and are not interested in what is important to them. An obvious example of a company that listens well to their consumers and capitalizes on convenience is Amazon. The company combines data, customer behavior tracking and analytics to provide solutions to customer expectations and anticipate their needs. Therefore, people return to Amazon time and time again, often not because of price, but for convenience.

How do brands know they are asking the right questions?

Chronister: Asking the right questions starts with asking open-ended ones in your market research, as well as doing quantitative research. Asking open-ended questions gives consumers the opportunity to open up and share what’s really important to them, not select from a curated list of expected responses. It’s important to listen closely to what your customers are telling you and be with them through the entire customer journey. Confirm you are listening throughout the product development process–build into your process times to expose what you have done thus far with customers, to ensure you are still on the right track. This allows you to confirm you have asked the right questions and understand what your customers want.

How does this impact personalized 1-to-1 communications?

Chronister: Getting to know your customer and ensuring you’re retaining the right info and data is crucial. It is important to understand what your customers are buying and what their preferred channel of interaction is. This helps you better anticipate their needs and demonstrates that you are indeed listening to them. Having good people who are customer-facing is key as well.

Personalized communication is reinforced through your company’s values and through your people. The expectation is that you are going to listen to the customers, so be sure you have the right people in place on a 1-to-1 basis to listen believably, communicate effectively, and build customer relationships successfully. This is much easier said than done and requires discipline and an ongoing commitment to people development.

CX is a key differentiator among brands and so much is being invested in this area. Where do you see CX headed for loyalty marketers?

Chronister: The key differentiator comes down to end-to-end experience, having a standalone loyalty program that isn’t integrated with your overall business strategy and brand message will not be effective. You need to recognize consumer behaviors that are good for your business and reward those behaviors while thanking them for staying with you over time.

Loyalty needs to become a part of the day-to-day interaction between the customer and your company. Consumers expect real-time recognition, special treatment, and convenience. If your loyalty program isn’t simple, meaningful and real-time, you aren’t going to meet your customers’ expectations in today’s world. We at Kobie can help you with that–it’s what we do. 

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