Customer experience goes hand-in-hand with brand advocacy. If you give customers an exceptional experience, they’re going to tell everyone they know about it—on social media, in online reviews, when chatting in-person with their friends and anywhere else they communicate. And customer experience doesn’t just mean customer service. It means living and delivering on brand values, and understanding and connecting with customers on an emotional level.
Companies that successfully implement a customer experience strategy achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn and increased revenues. Businesses that optimize an emotional connection outperform competitors by 85% in sales growth.
In order to be a leading brand in your industry, you have to exemplify traits that motivate customers to become loyal. Brand advocacy leaders are:
To stand out in the marketplace, companies have to leverage these traits to delight their customers. How can that be done? Here are six examples of companies that excel by inspiring their customers to be brand advocates and how they do it.
The socially responsible retailer connects with like-minded customers by supporting causes they care about. Its activist spirit is reflected in every aspect of the organization, from supply-chain logistics to fair wages.
In the notoriously wasteful apparel business, Patagonia stands out in the marketplace because of its attention to activism. But it’s the organization’s commitment to transparency that resonates most strongly with customers.
Takeaway: Today, customers, especially millennials, expect brands they love to be environmentally and socially responsible. Putting a portion of your business's focus on socially conscious activism is not only the right thing to do to make the world a better place, but it gives customers a reason to support you.
The sharing-economy icon inspired locals to open their homes to travelers looking for a more personal way to experience new destinations. Based on principles of mutual trust and respect, Airbnb struck an emotional chord with customers, growing from a $100-million venture to $31 billion in just 6 years.
Takeaway: With the sharing economy reshaping our values, ownership is no longer necessarily seen as pivotal to a quality lifestyle. The desire for experiences impacts how customers make purchasing decisions. A focus on creating a powerful brand experience is the key to acquiring brand loyalty among your audience.
Many of the brands in this article made Forbes’ 50 Most Engaged Companies list, but Starbucks Corporation ranks near the top at #3 following Amazon and Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company). The reason Starbucks ranks so high is because they offer an excellent customer experience. By putting their team members first to inspire employee advocacy, which in turn influences customer brand advocacy. In doing so, Starbucks had over 11% annual growth in 2017 and over $84B in market value. Brand advocacy not only delights customers, it heavily impacts an organization’s bottom-line growth.
Starbucks represents more than a caffeine break for most customers. By creating a sense of community in its cafés, it has become a “third place” between home and work for many. Everything, from its baristas’ name games to curated music selections, is designed to deepen its connection with customers.
Takeaway: Strengthen your advocate community by building value, emotion and meaning with your brand. Provide customers and employees alike with ways to connect with your brand and each other on an emotional level. Once you’ve created a tribe, inspire and empower them to advocate for you. Customers who feel like they’re part of a community co-create your brand with you. You’ll acquire new, innovative ideas and feedback that will push your business forward, and your customers will feel like they’re a part of something meaningful.
4. Southwest Airlines
According to a CX Solutions Benchmark Study of Customer Engagement, 51% of Southwest Airlines customers were highly engaged compared to just 26% of United Airlines customers. In addition, 46% of customers strongly agreed that Southwest Airlines cares about its customers compared to 16% for United. What makes Southwest customers engaged with the Southwest brand? It’s the focus they put on great customer service and the way they empower their employees to provide great customer service.
Southwest Airlines founder Herb Keller once said, “If the employees come first, then they’re happy…. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders. It’s not one of the enduring green mysteries of all time, it is just the way it works.”
It’s this focus on making employees happy and that inspires employee advocacy. If your organization can create employee advocacy from the ground up, it’s much easier to acquire overall brand advocacy.
Related: Find out the secret to successfully inspiring employee advocacy in your organization.
Takeaway: With an employee-first mentality, extraordinary customer experiences come naturally. Making sure your employees are satisfied and engaged in their roles—and connected to your brand values and mission—will ensure your customers feel it, too.
Nordstrom trains employees to utilize good judgement and doesn’t restrain them by forcing them to abide by a rule book. In doing so, employees feel like they're more than just moving parts in a large faceless machine, and instead owners of something they care deeply about. This is another example of how building employee advocacy creates a great customer experience, which then creates the opportunity for customer brand advocacy.
Employees are also trained to perform checkouts without customers having to wait in line, guide customers to the product they’re looking for and provide other helpful services. This way, many of the usual headaches customers face are eliminated and a great customer experience is served.
Takeaway: Find proactive ways to empower employees to do their best work and provide customers with relevant experiences that delight them. Stand out from competitors by providing value your audience can’t get anywhere else.
Chobani’s key to brand advocacy success is the way the brand makes authentic emotional connections with its audience members. Chobani stands for inclusivity and portrays that in its products and, particularly well, on social media.
Telling a relatable brand story that inspires emotional connections with customers is key to achieving brand advocacy.