Customer Experience Featured Article

Velvet Rope Customer Service: Making Customers Feel Part of Something Exclusive

May 27, 2014

How can a business best improve its customer experience? A lot has been made of this topic in the past, and there are possibilities aplenty when it comes to ways to try and improve the customer experience while in a business' purview. The Wall Street Journal's Christina Bechhold, meanwhile, advanced a new idea recently in terms of making customers happier to work with a business in a way many likely hadn't considered. Bechhold advanced the idea that good customer service lies in making customers feel like “part of the club.”

Bechhold advanced the idea while on a subway train, watching a pregnant woman settle into a seat with a tablet and a set of blue Beats headphones, and noted that this was an unexpected occurrence. But when Bechhold took a closer look at Beats' marketing strategy, she quickly came to realize that, essentially, Beats had set up a “club” of sorts, and then made membership available to long as those interested had a set of Beats headphones.

So, how did Beats get that kind of marketing going? It was a combination of factors, Bechhold noted, starting from the frequent and creative use of social media coupled with a set of “brand ambassadors” specifically chosen for connections to fashion and music to augment Beats' status as more than just a set of localized sound delivery systems to a full-on fashion accessory. Bechhold further noted that huge growth in a sector comes from one of two factors: time, or money. That is, huge growth comes from either long-term grassroots efforts that take a lot of time or from very large budgets. However, both of these factors seem to race toward a common goal: building a community.

For Beats, it became a matter of customers believing that the choice made in fashionable headphones was comparable to that of the various fashionistas and brand ambassadors the brand already enjoyed. The idea of customers being part of something bigger resonates throughout several other industries as well. Bechhold, for example, notes things like the Cover mobile payment app and a company with a hotly-contested Instagram photo contest with a prize of just getting that photo shared with 100,000 followers. Meanwhile, the webcomic medium provides plenty of examples on this front as well; those who can build communities tend to do better than those who don't.

In fact, what Bechhold seems to be describing is a phenomenon that some call the “1,000 True Fans” concept. It's a fairly old concept; some were talking about it back in 2008 and likely before. But under 1,000 True Fans, the idea was that an organization—particularly a small one—could become self-sustaining and continually operating from the efforts of 1,000 people who were true fans of the organization in question. Specifically, the true fans were those who bought everything said organization came out with, followed every new development, talked it up with friends and family, and just plain couldn't get enough. Getting these fans gave the business in question a customer base, a ready marketing arm, and most everything needed to keep it operational.

Though it's not easy to get these true fans, getting said fans into the fold can make or break a business, particularly a new one. Offering a great experience, and one that makes the customer feel special—like part of a club, as Bechhold notes—is the kind of marketing that can make success happen. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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