Would you appeal to more consumers if you eliminated a large portion of your inventory? That’s exactly what Petco is doing.
Petco announced that as of May 1, 2019, it will be the first major pet food retailer to sell only pet food without artificial ingredients. This bold move puts Petco’s brand ethos at the forefront and appeals to the top-growing segment of consumers who want their pets to enjoy the same quality of life as they do.
What made Petco so sure this was a good strategy? How did the brand know to position pet lifestyle over price or convenience? It listened to its customers. More important, it responded to customer feedback. By meeting consumers where they are, Petco will capture a greater share of the market. Not to mention it’s likely to grow profit margins by selling more expensive, higher-quality products.
Listening and responding to customer feedback should be at the center of your customer experience practice. Your customers will be more engaged with your brand when you let active listening drive strategy development.
Listen. Act. Promote.
Marketing, especially at a broad scale, is the face and voice of your brand. If your marketing reflects a brand that doesn’t align with your customers’ needs or is out of step with market trends, your customers will simply tune you out.
Think of software companies like Adobe, Pandora, and Netflix; they successfully use data and feedback to guide their development road maps and business strategies. As a result, they adapt to their customers’ changing habits and maintain their positions in their customers’ lives.
If your business strategy is built to serve your audience but your marketing doesn’t reflect that strategy, you may have a disconnect in communication. In the case of Petco, for example, it’s not just making a significant change — it’s promoting that change with a clear message. Petco’s marketing appeals to loving pet parents by asking them why Petco would carry food that’s not good enough for them to give to their pet.
To get consumers to trust and purchase, you must demonstrate empathy by listening. Consumers notice when companies ask for feedback or respond to their concerns. You don’t have to agree with their feedback or acquiesce to their requests, but acknowledging and thanking consumers in a memorable way will close the empathy loop. Consumers who feel seen and heard are likelier to buy your product and they’re curious to see where you’ll go next.
Connect the Customer Care Empathy Loop
Active listening and thoughtful responses create the genuine connections between your brand and consumers that cement customer loyalty. When you demonstrate empathy, you get the feedback you need to serve your audience well. And that audience will be excited to hear from you after you first listened to them. These three steps create the empathy loop your customers want:
1. Train front-line staff to be brand ambassadors.
Your brand doesn’t live in a sales deck; it lives every day through the actions, words and presence of your representatives in the marketplace. Make sure to introduce branding and value changes internally before you expect your team to promote them to your audience. Train ambassadors to bring empathy to consumer engagements and show them how that can directly affect your company’s growth.
2. Build bridges between marketing and customer service.
New business development and customer service seem like separate functions, but the only way to ensure the voice of the customer (VOC) is present in your marketing is to bring the marketing and customer service teams together. Achieving that consistency is why many brands are incorporating customer experience (CX) under their marketing teams. Bringing these teams together creates a direct link between VOC and marketing strategy.
3. Equip your team to make genuine connections.
Give your team the tools to go above and beyond after an interaction is over. Sending a personalized card or follow-up communication in the spirit of your business gives you the last word and reminds your customer that the interaction was important to you, too. A personalized follow-up with a customer allows your brand ambassadors to truly “live your brand” and close the empathy loop — listen and respond — with your customers.
Bold marketing moves aren’t about flashy ads or an unexpected change in inventory. When you surprise people by meeting their needs unapologetically, you’ll have a loyal customer base who wants to see what your brand will do next.
Patrick McCullough is the client strategy director at Hallmark Business Connections, a subsidiary of Hallmark that helps businesses build and strengthen relationships with their customers and employees.
Patrick McCullough is the client strategy director at Hallmark Business Connections, a subsidiary of Hallmark that helps businesses build and strengthen relationships with their customers and employees. He is passionate about helping businesses transform and has worked with companies of all sizes as they look to evolve their strategies in order to match the demands of the customer in the 21st century.