Creating loyal customers is not an easy task, as any company knows. Persuading customers to return, time and time again is obviously a huge bonus for any business, but the next step down the line is undoubtedly of even greater benefit. By turning loyal customers into fans through successful completion of the previous steps covered in this series of blogs, you can gain access to numerous benefits. But what exactly is the difference between a loyal customer and a fan, and how can they help your business?
A loyal customer is, at the most basic level, somebody who will return to you because of the quality of your service or product. They know what they’re getting, and feel like it’s the best option for them. While they are good to have, there is no passion in the relationship, they will complete the transaction, disappear and only re-emerge if they need your services again.
On the other hand, a true fan will engage with you far beyond the transaction. They’ll sing your praises on social media and in person with friends, family and other fans. They’ll keep an eye on what’s new from your business and, if they can, they’ll be the first to try it out for themselves. This is obviously of huge benefit as it can turn other people into customers, boosting your revenues, and helping to spread the word about your company. But fans must be managed properly, as spurning them can be extremely harmful to your reputation.
Let me entertain you
While the previous steps listed in these retailing blogs help to turn customers into fans, keeping your fans happy is another challenge that you must be proactive in approaching. A popular analogy is to compare musicians and sports clubs with companies. Musicians and sports teams have fans, companies have customers. Both are trying to sell a product, but the big difference is interaction. While musicians and sports teams tend to interact with their fans as much as possible, companies tend to communicate less. To help customers feel valued and invested, and become fans, a company must engage with them as much as possible, rather than just through the occasional newsletter or official communique.
You’ll never walk alone
Poor communication can lead to the opposite effect. Take the high-profile example of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the owners of Liverpool Football Club, who boasted on their website about ‘turning fans into customers’ mere days after announcing price hikes on tickets without consulting fan forums. The backlash to this action went far beyond just the Liverpool ‘customers’, and just as fans will spread positive news to friends and colleagues, they will also be very vocal when they feel they’ve been ignored.
A more appropriate way to help your fans and promote advocacy is by providing a clear platform for feedback, and taking that into account. For example, if you provide excellent customer service, as covered in previous steps in the process, then providing a simple way for customers to feed back on their experience can only be helpful. On a larger scale, allowing fans to help shape the future of your business, and using their feedback can be a fantastic way to make your fans feel involved and valued. Staying in the world of football, many clubs have updated or changed their badge in recent years. This is almost universally met with disdain from fans, unless they are directly consulted during the process, as they feel that they have just as good an idea of what the badge should represent as the company running it. This makes fans feel involved in the direction the company is heading, and feel deeply satisfied that they are helping to shape something that they love.
Just can’t get enough
In conclusion, the key difference between a customer and a fan is quite simple. Engagement. While a customer is happy to get what they want and move on, a fan is more emotionally invested, meaning they want to know what is going on, and take an active interest in your company. While maintaining fandom comes with big challenges for a company, the benefit of having advocates talking about your work in a massively positive manner vastly outweighs them. The financial benefits of having a dedicated network of fans will help your company to boost sales of any new products and services, as your fans are likely to be early adopters. As Henry Ford once said “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”
Keep an eye out for our final blog on this topic and for now you can find more information about retail excellence in our infographic here: http://www.uk.amadeus.com/blog/2016/12/where-are-you-on-the-journey-to-becoming-a-successful-travel-retailer
Contact your Amadeus account manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss the journey from travel agent to successful retailer and how Amadeus can help.