Customer happiness might sound like a fluffy business goal, but it’s critical to modern businesses. Happy customers fuel brand advocacy and retention, which in turn increases revenue and reduces overhead costs. Sounds pretty good, right?
So… how do you make your customers happy? It’s not just about improving customer service or expanding your offerings. Customer happiness is a business philosophy that should permeate every department and initiative, but it has to come from the top of your organization to really stick.
What is a happy customer?
Before you can learn how to create happy customers, you need to define what makes a customer happy with your business. Happiness is not a concrete concept with clear delineations or metrics. It can be a tough thing to define. But knowing what happy customers look like can help you measure where you currently stand and where you need to make improvements.
Happy customers have a few key things in common. They are:
Repeat customers: They return to your business to purchase your products and services over and over again.
Loyal customers: They have other options for their purchases but they consistently choose your business.
Long-term customers: They remain customers of your business for years or even decades.
Advocates: They speak positively about your company to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Essentially, you can identify your happy customers by determining how many of them choose your business repeatedly and often and tell others about how much they enjoy their experiences with your business. Happy customers value your brand beyond just a company to purchase from, but rather, they trust your business helps them achieve their long-term goals and improve their life.
It’s important to note that happy customers are different from those who are passively satisfied. You may have customers who have purchased from your business for years, but only because you’re the only option in their area or competition is minimal. Those customers do make repeat purchases, but they’re not advocates and are likely to switch loyalties when an equal or better offer comes along.
You can also make customers happier, which is not the same as creating happy customers. Customers become happier in the short term when you offer them discounts or provide friendly service, but those are simply short-term actions that customers expect to happen. It doesn’t build deeper trust with your brand.
Truly happy customers, on the other hand, will remain loyal purchasers and active advocates because they love what you offer and have built a real relationship with your business.
Happy customers are critical to the success of your business. Since acquiring new customers is much more costly than retaining existing ones—from 5 to 25 times more expensive—ensuring your customers are happy also ensures your business spends less. And increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, so you’ll also earn more from them. Not to mention the stability those long-term relationships with happy customers bring to your business.
Really, the question is: Can your business afford not to focus on creating happy customers?
What is customer experience?
Creating happy customers begins by giving people a great customer experience. Customer experience (CX) is how your customers perceive their interactions with your business. Are you meeting or exceeding their expectations, or falling short?
Providing great customer experiences is key to making your customers happy. Buyers these days expect more from businesses. They don’t want to be seen as simply a transaction in a ledger but expect thoughtful and personalized customer experiences.
If your business meets and exceeds customer expectations every time, your customers will stick around because they’re happy. But there’s a big gap between the experience companies think they’re delivering and what customers receive. In fact, 80% of companies believe they deliver “superior experiences,” but only 8% of customers agree.
Customer experience can be a challenge for companies because it’s based on perception and emotion. Two customers can perceive the same interaction in different ways depending on many factors. The key to creating great customer experiences is to create a long-term relationship based on trust and a deep understanding of customers' needs.
What is customer satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is how satisfied customers are with what your business offers and the experience they have in their interactions with you. It sounds like a simple concept, but it can be challenging to measure. That’s why the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is an important customer loyalty metric in your Voice of the Customer feedback program.
While customer satisfaction is not the be-all-end-all of CX, it’s one of the necessary tools for delivering great customer experiences. It’s part of a larger system that leads to happier customers and long-term customer retention.
Why is customer satisfaction key to creating happy customers? Well, we talked above about how important building trust with customers is to building a long-term relationship with them. And increasing customer satisfaction by 10% increases customer trust by 12%.
Satisfied customers are often happy customers. What your business provides—your products, your customer service, and your brand—should meet or exceed their expectations all the time. If customers feel satisfied with what they get from their relationship with your business, they will remain happy and loyal in the long term.
5 keys to creating happy customers
It’s clear from the evidence - happy customers are vital to the success of your business. And customer experience and satisfaction figure strongly into customer happiness.
But how can your business go about creating happy customers? These 5 strategies will help you increase the number of happy customers and reap the benefits.
1. Ask for their feedback, and really listen.
Every customer has an opinion about your company. Positive or negative, they’re going to share it with someone eventually.
Customer experience surveys
One way to bolster your reputation is to seek out negative feedback rather than waiting for it to snowball. Sending customer experience (CX) surveys regularly is a great way to do that. CX surveys give unhappy customers a direct channel to voice their issues. If your company acknowledges and acts on their feedback in a timely manner, then that sets a precedent. Next time something goes wrong, they may turn to you instead of venting about their experience online.
There are 2 primary types of CX surveys:
Transactional surveys – These quick, contextual surveys ask customers for feedback on a recent experience. Companies often set up survey workflows to automate the process, so each time a specific action is taken, it triggers a transactional survey. For example, you might trigger a customer satisfaction survey after closing a support case so customers can rate the quality of the support they received.
Pulse surveys – More generic and periodic, pulse surveys help companies measure overall customer sentiment rather than individual experiences. The Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) question (How likely are you to recommend our company to your friends or family?) is often included in pulse surveys, along with more relationship-based questions.
Learn more about customer experience surveys
2. Personalize your communications.
It’s noisy online. The web produces 5 exabytes of new online content daily. (That’s 5 billion gigabytes.) It’s no wonder consumers crave personalization from brands more than ever. We’re so overloaded with information as it is, tuning out generic company messages is easy. For companies to connect with their customers, they have to cut through the noise.
Personalizing your customer communications is a great way to do it. Here are a few examples:
Include personal details in your marketing messaging, like the customer’s first name, last name, company, industry, or product preferences. This is simple enough through any modern email service provider, and it makes an incredible difference. According to Aberdeen, personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.
Add personalized questions to customer surveys, like the name of the agent they spoke with, the product they’re reviewing, or the date of the interaction. You can use merge fields to personalize surveys rather than sending a different survey to every single customer. This cuts down on work for your team and simultaneously creates a better survey experience for your customers.
Offer personalized product and content suggestions, like the “You Might Also Like…” sections you see on e-commerce sites. Personalized suggestions drive customers to self-discover other relevant content online.
It’s also important to give customers the chance to opt-in by asking them what they want to see in the future. During onboarding or after a purchase, consider sending customers a quick questionnaire to learn more about their preferences. Just make sure to integrate customer feedback with your email provider and/or CRM, so their input can guide future campaigns.
Allowing customers to contact support and troubleshoot problems via the channel they prefer is also a powerful form of personalization. Some customers may prefer to call a helpline or chat with a customer service rep, while others want to solve the problem on their own with access to self-serve resources. Providing multiple options for solving issues can both reduce the burden on your customer service reps while allowing customers to choose which method suits their needs best.
3. Deliver omnichannel support.
We all know customer service has a huge impact on customer experience. Happy customers are often born from positive customer support interactions. But beyond the fundamentals, what can customer support teams do to drive customer happiness?
As McKinsey notes, consistency is key. Since support teams often help customers over 3 or more channels, it’s important the support experience is consistent and convenient across all of them. Whether customers pick up the phone, draft an email, read a knowledge base article, or chat with a live agent, they want efficient and effective support. Omnichannel support is a modern approach to customer service that unites multiple channels seamlessly. Customers and agents can move from an email conversation to a phone call without missing a beat.
Even the savviest, most customer-centric companies may struggle to provide that level of service though. It’s impossible to plan for every customer and every situation—sometimes you’ll miss the mark. That’s why support teams should measure service quality across channels using a combination of omnichannel customer feedback and service-level metrics, like time to first response, customer effort score, average resolution time, and more. Consistent measurement helps teams spot service gaps early on before they impact the larger customer base.
Learn more about omnichannel feedback
4. Use the right language.
Kayako found that specific phrases and words can create more positive customer feelings. This language not only humanizes a business, but it helps buffer negative customer service interactions.
Here are some of those customer-conscious phrases:
Sure thing, you can do this by…
I know what we can do…
The best thing to do would be to…
Let’s help you find another way to…
Happy to help!
Let me know if I can help you with…
We have something similar, would you like to try it?
See how this is more conversational and friendly than stuffy "We apologize for this inconvenience" language? The tone is helpful, upbeat, and human. Try it the next time you’re dealing with an unhappy customer.
5. Make your employees happy.
Wait, weren’t we just talking about customers? That’s right, but think about how many customers a single employee interacts with over the course of a day, let alone a month or year. It isn’t even close to a 1:1 ratio. A support agent or sales rep might talk to thousands of customers a year. And a single interaction could be the lasting impression a customer has of your entire business.
As Virgin Airlines CEO Richard Branson told Inc., “If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile.” It’s pretty easy to understand how that translates into the language, tone, patience, and other key elements your employees use as they interact with your customers. Keeping the people closest to customers happy and engaged is just good business sense. Happy employees will emit excitement, pride, and satisfaction that carry through to customers.
Work on building positive, meaningful relationships with your employees. Make sure to tie their work to the organization’s success. This can be as simple as sending periodic employee engagement surveys, providing appropriate pay and benefits, creating an internal culture club, and acknowledging individual achievements regularly. Happy employees lead to happy customers. Prioritize the employee experience, and your customer experience will benefit too.
Businesses need to be laser-focused on customer relationships to breed happy customers. Be sensitive to their time and needs. Understand who they are and what they’re trying to accomplish. Speak to them on their level.
Any organization’s success is tied closely to its customers' success, so help them get there by reducing friction wherever possible. Give customers the opportunity to share feedback at every touchpoint. They may speak up rather than pack up the next time they have a bad experience.
Happy customers pay in dividends. They’ll sing your praises, they’ll be loyal to your brand, and they’ll help you build an exceptional customer experience that speaks for itself.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2016. It’s been updated for accuracy and freshness.