Don’t Let the Labor Shortage Short Circuit Your Customer Loyalty
It’s no secret when it comes to the value of loyalty. Existing customers spend 31 percent more, on average, than new ones. They’re also 50 percent more likely to try new products. As a result, more and more retailers, including Albertsons, Rite Aid, and The Container Store, are doubling down on loyalty programs to drive return visits in a crowded marketplace.
The Key to a Compelling Loyalty Program
Convenience is now ubiquitous thanks to practices like click and collect, curbside pickup, and rapid home delivery. Loyalty programs are quickly following suit. A standard program isn't enough. Retailers must design compelling offerings that earn customer trust and — in some cases — subscription dollars. But what makes a loyalty program stand out?
- Is it the strategic use of data to deliver hyperpersonalized messages like DSW?
- Is it timely cost-saving offers like Walmart+ subscriber gas discounts?
- Is it flexible lifestyle rewards like those offered by The North Face’s XPLR Pass?
These tactics are an important part of the loyalty story. However, every retailer uses marketing automation. Every retailer offers special member discounts. Every retailer has unique rewards. Brands that earn unparalleled customer loyalty, such as Apple, Starbucks, Disney, Sephora, base their customer relationships on one simple truth: every touchpoint counts.
Balance Customer Expectations With Labor Shortages
Frontline associates play an essential role in executing a compelling loyalty program. They’re in-store informing customers about exclusive product drops. They’re online answering questions about rewards redemption. They’re picking products in warehouses to make deliveries arrive as promised. Technology may be the backbone of your loyalty program, but a capable and confident frontline team brings your brand promise to life during every customer interaction.
Ongoing staffing challenges make this a particularly perilous time to raise customer expectations. The industry recorded a 69 percent turnover rate in 2021. Seasoned workers are leaving in droves. Managers have no choice but to hire people with little-to-no retail experience. New associates are asked to provide an elevated level of service to customers who often have more knowledge of the brand than they do.
To foster customer loyalty without an experienced workforce, retailers must put systems and processes in place to close frontline knowledge gaps.
Boost Engagement With Streamlined Communication
Loyal customers are excited about your brand and expect your associates to match their interest. Use digital communication to make sure frontline teams always feel involved and informed. Send digital messages directly to associates using workflow devices, including the point of sale and handhelds. Adopt a BYOD strategy to make sure every associate gets updates on product drops and member specials, regardless of when or where they work.
Crutch New Associates With Performance Support
Loyal customers are curious about your newest products and services. An associate who was hired last week can’t answer detailed questions because they're still figuring out the fundamentals of their job. Provide on-demand support so associates can access the information needed to assist customers in the aisle, online and on the phone. Make sure associates know where to go for answers so the dreaded “I don’t know” response is always followed with “but I can find out.”
Elevate Customer Service With Microlearning
Loyal customers receive highly personalized emails and mobile app experiences. They expect this personal touch to continue in-store and online when interacting with associates. They want to be addressed by name, offered special deals, and thanked for their continued patronage. Associates may be trained to do these things during onboarding, but they’re likely to forget once they're on the job. Make great customer service an everyday habit with microlearning. Reinforce critical behaviors with five-minute training sessions that fit seamlessly into any shift. Challenge associates with daily practice scenarios so they’re ready to deliver excellent service in real life with your most loyal customers.
Build Advocates Inside and Out
Customers and frontline workers have more options than ever before. They both understand their value and are looking for reasons to stick with your company. They expect frictionless experiences that maintain your brand promise. Once they’re bought in, they become powerful brand ambassadors. Seventy percent of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand with a good loyalty program. Engaged associates stay longer, perform better and actively recruit new co-workers. To stand out in a competitive marketplace, establish trust and earn loyalty from customers and employees, retailers must make every touchpoint count.
JD Dillon is the chief learning architect at Axonify, the modern learning solution for frontline employees.
JD Dillon has spent two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker, JD continues to apply his passion for helping people do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.