Today's marketers appear to be fixated on one type of return, return on investment (ROI).

There is, however, another type of return which may be equally as important to a brand's future financial health, their return on the goodwill they develop with their customers or their return on relationships (ROR).

The reason why ROR is so important is that the world has changed significantly over the past 10 years. Consumers have become distrustful of brands and instead, people are looking for opinions about brands from other people.

These opinions could come from just about anywhere – product reviews, social media, or even idle chit-chat – but what's important to brands is that when people do talk about them that they speak of them favorably.  

So, in order for brands to survive in an age when brands aren't trusted, companies need to develop great relationships with their customers and trust them to deliver the brand message.

But how can brands who are used to broadcasting brand messaging switch to becoming brands with a high ROR?

In order to find out, Econsultancy recently held a Digital Intelligence Briefing in Singapore and invited brand expert Ashok Miranda, founder of Transmedia Consultancy, to tell us more about it.

Ashok listed six things brands can do to improve their ROR, but first we'd like to tell you about a related training course: Mastering Customer Experience (CX) Management in the Digital Age. The course takes place on November 30th in Singapore – you can find out more and book your spot here.

So, how can companies get customers to speak more positively about their brands and earn a higher 'return on relationships'?

1) Adopt a customer-centric culture

For a start, companies have to get serious about becoming customer-centric. This means that everyone on the team must get customer experience (CX) training including sales, operations, managers, executives, developers, accountants, marketers, and of course your front line customer success team.

Next, brands should declare customer satisfaction as the top priority and re-align key performance indicators (KPIs) accordingly. 

Finally, everyone should know that the purpose of improving customer satisfaction is to build lasting relationships with existing customers in order to generate high lifetime value (LTV).

2) Spend more on customer service

In 2017, companies globally are expected to spend $1 trillion on marketing for the first time ever. Of that, nearly $600 billion will be spent on advertising and it's estimated that only around $10 billion will be spent on customer service globally.

Yet consumers consistently say that they would pay more for better service, so brands are missing a huge opportunity to both give customers what they want and pull ahead of the competition.

3) Invest in CX technology

Improving the customer experience is a task which requires the whole organisation to work together. For everyone to collaborate effectively, companies need to invest in systems which help them do so.

Examples include: 

  • Software that provides social media sentiment analysis
  • Point-of-presence net promoter score (NPS) terminals
  • CX management systems such as Liveperson, CloudCherry, or Oracle CX
  • Survey services such as Qualtics, SurveyMonkey, or CusJo

4) Redesign touchpoints

Another way that brands can improve their ROR is to think about each touchpoint from the customer's perspective: 

  • What question does the customer have at this point?
  • What problem are they looking to solve?
  • How can we help them right here?
  • How can that experience be amazing? 

Disney, a master of ROR, has a customer experience playbook which covers everything from the scent in the rooms, the email copy, even what music should play in the elevator. Attention to minute details like this goes a long way to create an amazing brand experience for customers.

For more on this, read: How Disney World has mastered customer experience.

5) Help people on social media

Companies need to realize that they don't have control over every customer touchpoint, so they will also need to spend time on review sites and social media to ensure that customers have the right company information, even if it is not always good news.

One way of ensuring the brand looks as good as possible on social media is for the social media team to be helpful as possible. People may not necessarily be in the frame to buy on social media, but they are always open to being helped.

Zappos is an example of a company which does this very well and will go to great lengths to ensure customers are happy. They do so because they know that people will always go back to brands which help first and sell second.

6) Create loyal brand ambassadors

The goal of spending more money, effort, and care on your customers is to create loyal ambassadors who will spread the brand message and defend you when problems arise.

Using any of the techniques above will move consumers in the right direction, but to put the icing on the ROR cake, brands should also go the extra distance and create surprise and delight moments which exceed customer expectations.

To do this, marketers need to think about how a customer feels at the beginning, the middle, and the end of an ideal experience – and then think of a way to make it even better.

Doing so will make your customers more than just people who buy your product or service, customers will, in effect, become part of your marketing team.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank Ashok Miranda, Founder of Transmedia Consultancy for his excellent presentation on return on relationships (ROR).

We'd also like to thank the marketers who attended the presentation and helped with this post by asking many intelligent questions.

We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 26 October, 2017 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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