Most businesses don't tend to think of customers as grateful. Satisfied, sure. But grateful? Yet if you truly want your business to succeed, the fact is that satisfaction may not be enough, and you need to start thinking in terms of gratefulness.
Customer satisfaction typically focuses on delivering the product or service you have promised, whereas customer gratefulness is inspired by going beyond expectation. Zappos, for example, triggers gratefulness in its customers every time it ships an order overnight, instead of the two-day shipping that's promised. A site offering a valuable white paper for download on a topic you care about triggers gratefulness every time it lets you download that paper without filling out a sales lead form as "payment."
What is the true value of gratefulness? Of course, there's the karmic value it has on your consumers feeling good about your brand—but the real value comes down to the simple power of word of mouth. The fact is, consumers are far more likely to share an experience they had with a brand that made them feel grateful as opposed to simply satisfied.
To trigger gratefulness among your customers, try changing the ways that you promote the products and services you have to offer.
1. Appeal to audiences that are used to being ignored. In any market, there are always ignored audiences. Most often they are ignored for a seemingly good reason. We assume there is a reason most beer marketing appeals to men and most skincare marketing appeals to women. Yet ignoring such "conventional wisdom" can often lead to your biggest marketing opportunity.
SavvyAuntie, for example, is a popular website and community devoted to reaching a market segment that founder Melanie Notkin calls PANKS (Professional Aunties No Kids). Her audience is women who have kids in their lives, but aren't mothers. And it's amazing how often they are ignored. By creating a community for them, and inviting brands to reach them through smart sponsorships, Notkin creates an opportunity for gratefulness to occur. When a brand does come into the community, it validates the audience and that commitment is rewarded with loyalty and, yes, gratefulness. The same principle occurs for brands that launch minority marketing initiatives. When you reach an audience that is used to being ignored, they respond with gratefulness, which can often translate into loyalty.
2. Focus on convenience and timing. In a world of consumption, we each have moments when we have a desperate need for something. It might be the late night run to the store for diapers, or the last minute reprinting of an important business proposal an hour before a critical meeting. Those high-stress moments are huge opportunities to deliver the right service, and solve someone's problem. If you can do so seamlessly, whether it's through convenience or timing, the emotional response typically is one of gratefulness.
For example, a well placed Starbucks inside a hotel lobby during a cold winter day in Boston may trigger far more gratefulness than a 24-hour Starbucks around the corner. The key is to find the best way to offer a level of convenience that sets you apart from your competition.
3. Create a culture that makes exceptions to the rules. Most businesses have rules, and the sad fact is that many employees use the rules as an excuse to avoid doing something a little extra for a customer. Want to get a half order of pancakes at the restaurant? I'm sorry, we are only allowed to sell full orders. Want to return a product after 31 days? Sorry, the receipt says 30-day-returns only. Great businesses find ways to allow the rules to be bent in reasonable situations.
The trick is empowering your employees to make these decisions to bend the rules. The Four Seasons is famous for having an open policy that allows any employee to spend several thousands of dollars without asking permission to make sure that a guest is happy. Do you have that level of empowerment in your business, and do you trust your employees to make those calls? It may not happen overnight, but if you can offer that control, you will not only inspire more gratefulness from your customers, but also create more loyal and happy employees in the process.
Read more articles on customer service.
Rohit Bhargava is a bestselling author and the founder of the Influential Marketing Group. He writes about creating more human brands, and speaks at events around the world on business and marketing strategy.