Your devoted customers are your most active advocates. Positive experiences in the past have taught them to have high expectations of you – they expect a great experience and they’re devoted to you because they get what they expect. But just as these customers are you most active advocates, they can also be the easiest to disappoint and can quickly turn into detractors.
I like the chart that Andy Hanselman uses to describe this scenario as I think it quite simply helps you to categorise your customers.
Your devoted customers have high expectations and could need just a single poor experience to turn them from ‘devoted’ to ‘disappointed’. I had a similar experience last night. I’ve written before that for air travel I’m a fan of Virgin Atlantic (see post here). I’ve enjoyed their service a number of times and would have always had good experiences. My expectations are high. I’m a devoted customer. And this is true – I genuinely would choose them above other carriers on the same route and always recommend them to others.
Sadly last night I had a poor experience. Nothing too major just a collection of things (my inflight entertainment didn’t work and none of the cabin crew helping to fix it, poor food and not the drinks service I was hoping for…). None of these things in and of themselves is significant. But together they made my experience poor. And as I sat on the plane last night, I felt disappointed. My expectations were high but my experience poor.
So what can companies like Virgin Atlantic do when their devoted customers are disappointed? Well the key is to listen to them and show that they are listening. These customers still want to be positive advocates about the brand, but they need their confidence in the brand to return. This is where a mechanism to engage them constantly and to feedback to them becomes important (both when their experiences are good and bad). Things go wrong and people have bad experiences from time to time – but brands need to make sure they act quickly when they do.