How do you engage your silent customer?

11 Oct

Brick wall with writing

Whether you’re a business owner, a marketer or even a blogger, the aim is the same: build your audience and create loyalty.

But how do you create loyalty with those customers who never make themselves known; the ones who bear silent witness to all your efforts without ever throwing a bone of acknowledgement in your direction?

From my experience, I estimate at least ¾ of your customers will not bother to engage with you. They are your silent majority, passive but incalculably valuable. How do you keep them happy if they won’t tell you what makes them so?

I recommend 3 actions.

1. Vary your approaches. Come at your customers, all of them, from different angles. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That applies to stimulating your silent customer as well, so try a variety of communications approaches to maximize the chances of prompting response from them.

2. Survey your customer base. Seeking regular feedback from those customers who will tell their story is easy enough. Simply ask them. To crack the eggs of the silent majority, you need a more refined form of surveying. Here’s what will increase your chances of hearing from them:

  • Automate the survey. Reluctant participants are no doubt more likely to voice their opinions if the survey is available to them online. I use either Fluid Surveys or Survey Monkey.
  • Keep it anonymous. This increases the likelihood of both participation and honest feedback.
  • Make it quick and painless. Response rates go up when the survey time is short. Your respondents are also far more likely to fill out subsequent surveys if the first one was effortless.

3. Follow through. If your survey results point to where your brand is letting your silent majority down and you do nothing with the knowledge, you’ve wasted their time and you will pay for that eventually. Any customer who shares an opinion wants to feel heard. Don’t tell them you’ve heard. Show them. Or they will do worse than not communicate with you again.

In the final analysis, some consumers just don’t want a relationship with your brand. But they may well be advocates, so continue to reach out, even if they don’t reach back.

Your analytics – sales results, click-throughs, visits, shares – will tell you if they’re still out there.

Thank you to my friend Andrea Merson for suggesting this post!

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5 Responses to “How do you engage your silent customer?”

  1. Andrea October 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Thanks for writing this Doug.

    I also think it’s important to make feedback timely and at the point of brand interaction. I was mad at a bus driver the other week so I studied the bus number as I stewed in anger for my 10 min drive. I thought of the heated email I was going to send. Then I got to work, forgot the bus number, got busy with life, and well… gave up on that idea. I had an opposite positive experience with the driver of bus 2055 but still I haven’t made a comment. In both cases, I said nothing. If I was able to give a satisfaction score in under 10 seconds. – whip out my phone and give a rating from 1-5 plus any additional comments, I would have. My satisfaction score would have been a lot different in these cases than if i had just received a survey monkey on some arbitrary date.

    Wouldn’t it be ideal if your phone prompted you to input a satisfaction score every time you walked out of a store? Or, if there was a screen at the cash that let you input your rating? Where’s the digital version of the comment box?

    I haven’t seen a good mobile feedback tool yet .

    A good read is The Loyalty Leap by Bryan Pearson (@Pearson4loyalty), President and CEO of LoyaltyOne ( Air Miles). I’m reading it now and it’s all about turning customer data into the customer intimacy. – you should check it out.

    • Doug Brown October 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      I’m thinking you are no silent customer. Armed with a mobile feedback app and ready to take down BC Transit?! Yowz.

      I take your points though. By and large, companies don’t want feedback unless the corporate culture is driving exemplary customer experiences, like Nordstrom. In many cases, the business is as silent as the customer, wouldn’t you say?

      • Andrea October 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

        Hahah. You’re right, I guess I’m not a silent customer at heart. It’s just too much effort to “talk” so my customer commentary goes unheard. Am I alone in that though?

        Nice point! Most companies are mute when it comes to anything but selling. What can they really expect back?

  2. TV Amanda October 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    You’re spot on with this. I’m usually the silent customer. I stayed at a hotel recently that emailed me before my visit to let me know of area attractions and give me an opportunity to ask questions of the concierge, and then afterwards (within 12 hours) sent me a survey request to see how my visit with them was. Even though I didn’t engage on the first email, I appreciated it, and that means that I’ll answer the survey. It’s up to the business to think like a customer, and reach out in ways that anticipate need, and allow for honest feedback. Consistency and variety should do the trick.

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