The idea of conscious consumerism has grown steadily over the past decade, but a global pandemic and social justice awakening accelerated the trend. Moving forward, businesses across all industries would be wise to prioritize customer wants and needs, voice their values, and follow through on their promises to drive long-term loyalty among increasingly discerning customers. Here are four steps business leaders can take.
Customers have been paying more attention to brand values for years, but the pandemic and focus on social justice have only accelerated the trend. A nifty new product or a smart, innovative service is no longer enough to earn a customer’s business in the long run. Instead, your company should make sure its values align with those of your customers — whether that means focusing on sustainability, racial equality, health and wellness, or all three.
Prioritizing these issues internally won’t be enough. To drive business value, you need to give voice to your initiatives and show customers that you’re invested in them and their broader communities. To earn both your customers’ immediate business and their long-term loyalty, follow these four steps.
- Invest in the health and safety of your customers.
Living through a global pandemic has made people more aware of germs than ever — and they want to feel safe at the businesses they patronize. “The main thing retailers can do is make cleanliness a priority, which is good for any brand,” says Bob Marsh, chief revenue officer of Bluewater. “I know of several retailers that went to the extreme during the pandemic in terms of health and safety protocols and ended up winning many new customers because of it — and those are customers who will stick around for years to come.”Fighting germs and sterilizing surfaces can be time-consuming and tedious, but resist the temptation to cut corners — and don’t get lax just because vaccines are being distributed. Instead, opt for advanced solutions like UV-C light sterilization, which is both effective and easy on the environment. Whether you’re cleaning shopping carts, checkout surfaces, or conference rooms, your customers will appreciate the fact that you’re still taking additional steps to prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses.
Other important steps include a mask mandate and social distancing measures to keep customers at a safe distance from one another (ideally, 6 feet apart). When shoppers see evidence of these precautions at a store’s entrance, they’re more likely to venture inside. “Understanding [customers’ changing] needs and offering relevant products along with convenient and safe fulfillment methods will allow businesses to retain customer loyalty,” says Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group.
- Respond to queries quickly and in the proper channels.
What’s the most important element of good service? A quick response time to customer questions or concerns. Yet when SuperOffice analyzed 1,000 companies for its annual customer service benchmark report, it found that the average response time to a customer service request was more than 12 hours.Cutting down your response time should be a top priority, but it’s also important to make sure the initiative doesn’t come at the cost of quality. After all, an immediate response that’s no help is just going to frustrate the customer and start the whole process over again.
You should also focus on delivering service where customers want it most. Channels like Facebook Messenger have become increasingly popular for customers to quickly and conveniently reach out to service agents. In fact, some 79% of customers prefer live chat options because they don’t have to wait on hold.
To keep these inquiries from overwhelming your customer service team, consider implementing a chatbot. Chatbots can’t handle everything, but their nearly limitless scale and ability to accurately answer a wide variety of questions mean they can field a large number of the most basic requests, alleviating some of the burden on service employees.
- Appeal to conscious consumers.
Research on consumer buying habits shows that 83% of Millennials want to purchase products from brands that share their values. That same group was projected to spend $1.4 trillion last year, making it a key demographic for businesses across industries. According to Ronn Torossian, founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, “71% of Millennials will pay more for a product if they know some of the proceeds go to charity, meaning brands have the opportunity to create a positive corporate identity and increase sales if done correctly.”These customers (and many others from all generations) expect more out of brands than ever before. So examine your promises to incorporate DEI initiatives, improve sustainability, and give back to your communities — and ask yourself whether you’ve followed through on these objectives.
Doing good for its own sake is laudable, but if you want to reap some of the business benefits of your actions, you need to communicate them to your broader audience. Let customers know where some of their dollars are going when they decide to purchase your products or services, and show them the good they can do just by being loyal customers. Don’t stop at charity, either: From your design and production processes to your logistics and operations, if your company is striving to be a force for good in the world, your customers and prospects will take note and reward your efforts with their business.
- Give customers a voice.
How did HubSpot grow from a small marketing platform in 2006 to a publicly-traded organization worth billions? CEO Brian Halligan, who was voted one of the top CEOs in the U.S. in 2020, explained that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” And it’s true.
Customers are the best source of information about how your company can improve, but many businesses fail to tap into that resource beyond the most basic satisfaction surveys. There are plenty of resources out there to help you gather feedback, from surveys and feedback boxes to direct requests and user activity studies. What matters is that you start collecting data today.When a customer service platform called Groove noticed that its customers were abandoning their subscriptions at a growing rate, the CEO sent out an email to every customer to ask if they could offer insights into their experience with the product. Responses came flooding in. Besides general advice on usability, the emails also included ideas for features, some of which already existed but were hard to find. Armed with that information, the team created new resources to show customers how to use the platform more effectively and increase satisfaction rates from day one.
Conscious consumerism began largely with younger generations, but the trend has picked up momentum and permeated consumers in all age groups. Moving forward, it will continue to be a priority, and customers will reward businesses that dare to voice their values and be the change they wish to see. By following the four steps above, you can help your organization earn the respect and loyalty of its most valued customers.