Brand Endearment: Return The High-Five

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I live on the road, in hotels and airports.  While some people keep suitcases at the back of their closets, I live out of mine.

So when I read about the Genius Pack on USAToday.com I was excited to try it out!  I trusted the site, and the suitcase was exactly what I’d been looking for.  I ordered one that day.

The case arrived quickly and had all the compartments and fancy add-ons I had hoped for (better pockets, phone charger built in, dirty laundry compartment).  I was a happy customer and decided to tweet about it.

A bunch of my followers jumped in and replied, some of who were also looking for suitcases. Travel, and anything to make it more comfortable, is a popular topic on Twitter, and the tweet lead to a great conversation.

You know who didn’t join in though? Genius Pack.  The company remained quiet.

When would-be or happy current customers mention your product or service, they are putting up their hands for a high five.  It’s not to say when we compliment a brand we have to get a reply, but when we make an effort to include the Twitter name, it shows we are including you in the conversation. (I still remember my first reply from the brand, Cirque du Soleil. Love them.) This is an opportunity for engagement that is all too often ignored.  As businesses we are quick to reply to angry customers, but often leave happy ones hanging.

Genius Pack wasn’t listening.  Or, if they were, they weren’t interested in talking with me, or the other would-be customers putting up their hands.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about them  not replying.  I gave them an opportunity, and shared my excitement about their product, but I wasn’t sitting around waiting for a response.  I took my new suitcase-of-awesomeness, packed it up for the trip and away we went.

However, by the time I’d reached security at my first airport, I was already frustrated with my new suitcase.

It tipped over.  Many times.

It tipped over in line.  It tipped over when I let go of it for a moment to take off my jacket.  By the time I had finished my trip, the front pocket zipper had broken (It wasn’t over-packed by far). I couldn’t wait to throw the thing out and use my old suitcase again. The case had been expensive and instead of making my travel more comfortable, it was more difficult.

Because I hadn’t built a connection to the company, I had no problem voicing my issue publicly.

People replied that they were also looking at this particular suitcase and were glad I saved them the hassle after seeing my original tweet.

When we are endeared to a brand we seek out private and personal channels to manage resolution.  With a brand I know, like and trust, I will email or contact them privately first, rather than publicly, when I’m unhappy.  Since @GeniusPack hasn’t followed me, I couldn’t send them a private message even if I wanted to.

Unlike the non-reaction to my first tweet, Genius Pack did reply to my second very quickly.

We went on to email and their CEO was apologetic and very efficient at processing the refund for my purchase – but not before the issue was shared publicly online. I was very impressed with how great they were after the problem, which confused me as to why they had no response before the problem. There weren’t hundreds of mentions of the product, actually none other than mine that day.

If you only pay attention to your customers when they are angry, you are only going to have angry customers publicly.  You will miss the chance to engage with the happy ones and create brand evangelists.

Here are the four steps to create Brand Endearment.

Listen.  You need to be paying attention to what people are saying about your brand and industry online.  There are some great tools out there to help you keep up.  It can be as simple as setting up a Google Alert or using keyword search on Twitter.  Use a listening tool such as Expion, Radian6, Vocus or Trackur. Paying attention is the first step.

Own the good you do. Value the positive voice.  It’s too easy only to focus on the negative.  You need to make time to thank customers who love what you do.  Be proud and say thank you. (and by “thank-you I don’t mean only RT’ing positive compliments about yourself. Avoid the humble brag). I try to do this with people who tweet compliments about my books.

Don’t leave all those high-fives hanging.  Take time away from fighting fires, and seeking out new customers, to thank the ones you have. This is the where the opportunity for brand endearment begins.  Don’t value your customers based only on purchases already made.  A happy customer is your best marketer.  Grow those relationships.

Engage.  Social media is just a fancy term for talking to other people.  When you listen and value your customers you can create content and products that give value back to them.  Be a part of the conversation; find out what they like to chat about. Care about what they are looking for.  And then be there, to have a conversation that matters to them.

When you do these three things, your customers will become endeared to you.

As customers we feel like we know an engaged brand, because we do.  Brands who connect with their customers online earn a face, a personality, and a reputation for listening.