#1 Posted: 18 May 2012 08:15
My latest book, "The Amazement Revolution," describes seven customer service strategies, one of which aims to create a community of loyal customers. Some consider this an aspect of marketing strategy, but it really is a very customer-focused tactic. There are two ways to approach this. The first is to begin with a group of satisfied customers and deliver outstanding customer service to convert them into a community of customer evangelists. The other approach is to form a community of customers specifically tasked with providing a better product and experience for all your customers.
The key to building this community is truly listening to your customers. You could even formalize it by creating a "customer board of directors," enlisting the help of some of your best customers. Listen to what they have to say — their ideas for improving your product or service, as well as the customer service that you deliver.
Software companies employ this strategy. They have "User Groups" — which could be likened to the customer board of directors — to discuss the various software products and their uses. The companies incorporate the feedback from the customers to improve their products.
An airline program called MegaDo was recently featured in a business article in USA Today (Feb. 13, 2012). The program is used by several airlines, including United, Lufthansa and other Star Alliance airlines, and it brings together a community of loyal customers and seeks their feedback for future improvements.
Tommy Danielsen founded MegaDo in 2009 with the idea of offering frequent fliers (business or pleasure) specially designed trips in which they could experience various aspects of the air business. A MegaDo trip could involve traveling on a new plane, visiting with airline executives, touring a manufacturing facility or getting a behind-the-scenes look at airline operations.
For this year's MegaDo, Suzanne Rubin, president of American Airlines AAdvantage frequent-flier program, met with the passengers; but rather than meeting in a boardroom, she actually traveled with the passengers. They had the opportunity to talk with her and ask questions, and she took note of their suggestions as well. It was a great opportunity for an airline executive to learn from a "captive audience" of the company's best customers. The passengers in this case served as a "customer board of directors," and enjoyed the opportunity to provide feedback to Ms. Rubin.
These companies' examples can serve as a starting point to get you thinking of the best ways to bring your customers together. Create your own customer board of directors to reach out to them and find out how you are doing, how they are using your product, and any suggestions they may have for improvements. Use customer service to build a community, and watch your business grow.