The Hallmark Customer Experience Starts With Loyalty

Rhonda Basler

The Director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark provides top tips to gaining customer loyalty.

Ask marketers why loyalty is important, and they’ll tell you it’s a great way to increase sales. Now ask a customer. Get the same answer? Not only do customers want quality products and services, they want to feel good about being your customer.

While businesses need to act with self-interest in order to survive and compete, the investment in customer experience pays far greater dividends in how customers feel about the companies they do business with, and it influences their long-term buying behaviour.

So it starts with you. How is your company demonstrating loyalty to its customers?

Understand the Nature of Loyalty

In our personal lives, loyalty grows out of the balance of things freely given and gratefully received. If you ask a friend for a ride, you might offer gas money, but more often than not, you’d be refused. As a result, you’re more likely to consider that friend to be a keeper.

Customer/company interactions have their ups and downs. To sustain relationships through the negative times, we must continue to build goodwill, acceptance, understanding and trust all along the customer journey.

SEE ALSO: Market Report: The Changing Face of Customer Loyalty in Retail

Create Goodwill With Unexpected Gestures

Often what first comes to mind are large-scale events that create a lot of buzz. Are the effects really long-lasting? Does it mean the next one has to be bigger, better and costlier? Creating goodwill doesn’t take such grand gestures. In fact, the more personal the experience, the more memorable it is.

To those of us working in the customer experience field, the phrase "surprise and delight" might be overused, but rarely overdone. Look for an unexpected extra benefit that is unique, thoughtful and relevant to both your business and your customer.

When customers contact Hallmark Business Connections’ call centre, they often mention what’s going on in their personal lives. Perhaps they just bought a new home. Using that tid-bit of information, the associate will send a Hallmark card with a personalised message of congratulations.

Unexpected and always appreciated, that greeting is our chance to show how much we really do care. It’s also our chance to show off how good it feels to receive a Hallmark card.

Foster a Sense of Togetherness

How do you choose your friends? Very often, it’s the things you have in common. Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments continue to be a vibrant, growing segment of our business. They’re more than just products or decorations; they represent shared values. From this foundation, the Keepsake Ornament Club was formed.

Since 1987, Keepsake Ornament Club (KOC) has offered insider information, behind-the-scenes looks, artist interviews, exclusive collectible ornaments and collector events created especially for the biggest fans. The KOC also has grown into a broad community of people who connect in person and online to share their enthusiasm for Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments year-round.

As you would expect, these members buy more products than the average consumer, but what’s unique is the personal relationship Hallmark artists enjoy with their collectors. The Keepsake Ornament Club represents their mutual passion and love of the holidays.

Consider your loyalty programme. If the premise is simply to develop a database that you’ll use in the hopes of selling more, people will readily abandon you for the next seller who offers even lower prices. If instead you give this highly engaged group first access to new products or solicit their candid feedback about your services, you’ll not only gain valuable information, you’ll garner authentic loyalty.

Give offers that feel like a gift

Reciprocate the loyalty of your best customers by giving them exclusive offers. When it’s truly special, it’s memorable and opens the door to doing business again. We celebrate Hallmark Gold Crown customers’ birthdays with a greeting card acting as the giftwrap to an offer that is aligned with their preferences and buying behaviour.

This outreach programme always gets high marks with Gold Crown storeowners. In our very competitive retail industry, the Hallmark card has consistently achieved a 12-18 per cent response rate over a 3-year timeframe and provides a 10-point lift over the control group. It’s fantastic compared to the 3.7 per cent average industry response rate.

Keep it Real

If you’re connecting with customers ONLY for the business results, if you’re just doing it to get that next transaction, your customers will feel it, and you’ll realise this when your profits flag.

Take advantage of the moments that make your customer interactions meaningful. If you make it your goal to create a two-way relationship, showing honest, even humble gratitude and respect for the role customers play in your success, their loyalty will happily be reciprocated in your business results.