A lot of businesses like to play it safe, but why? The companies that make it to the top are the ones stepping out of the norm and providing unparalleled customer service. They’re the ones that build a following of loyal customers, become a dominant brand and lead in their industries.
Take Taylor Swift. A music superstar, she validates the importance of customer service, having built an empire through “fan engagement.” As the entertainer’s former manager, I had a front-row seat watching her early development as an artist, and while most of her peers were focused on trying to be famous, she focused on her fans. And she has continued that commitment to her fans, outshining her competitors with the best fan engagement.
Here’s the Taylor Swift model of customer service for the most loyal fans:
1. Online Engagement
A couple of years prior to Taylor’s debut record, she was building a fan base through her website and MySpace. She featured fans in her “top friends,” and a handful of MySpace enthusiast sites popped up. And when she first started touring, she would message my email address to fans, giving them the opportunity to request concert meet-and-greets—even continuing their conversations after the show.
By giving a dedicated group of fans exclusive access, Taylor nurtured a kind of VIP list—one that’s still growing. Once a 15-year-old girl answering MySpace comments, she’s now a 24-year-old celebrity commenting on fans’ Instagram photos and re-blogging them on Tumblr. She hasn’t lost sight of the need for online interactions.
To do: Build authentic relationships through social media, and treat your most loyal customers like VIPs. Model your accounts after brands such as Chipotle, Oreo and Starbucks, who are using their social accounts as a relationship tool rather than a promotional tool.
2. Exclusive Events
During the Fearless era, it became impossible for Taylor’s team to accommodate every meet-and-greet request. So they organized “T-Parties” (later rebranded as Club RED for the RED Tour), post-show events backstage at all of her concerts. Her team would pluck fans out of the audience and invite them to the T-Party—where they got to hang out, eat, check out memorabilia and actually meet Taylor. Eager to be picked for these exclusive events, the number of passionate fans at her concerts grew. They dressed up and made signs in an effort to stand out and be invited.
When Taylor announced “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and her RED album in a live stream from her parent’s house in Nashville, she flew in a group of faithful fans and then bussed them to her condo for dinner. She held a similar event in New York City for the announcements of “Shake It Off” and the 1989 album—out today.
And that’s not all. She has also held “1989 Secret Listening Sessions” for her most dedicated fans all over the world. Plus, so far she’s invited fans to London and her homes in Los Angeles, Nashville and New York to exclusively play the album for them before any performance. Fans aren’t the only lucky ones—Taylor has also extended invitations to influencers—journalists and bloggers—who have always supported her.
To do: Pull back the curtain, and invite customers to exclusive events to show your appreciation for supporting your business. What might seem ordinary to you can be special to them. Identify those situations, and create opportunities for your VIPs and influencers with large followings. Here’s one example: Host monthly Google hangouts to both interact with your customers and gather feedback to enhance your business.
3. Be Different
Taylor became the star she is today because she was different. She did not follow the status quo of other artists—she separated herself from the pack. She sent handwritten notes to every radio station after her visits, and while she was opening for George Strait, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts, she would stay after every show to meet the fans who stayed late to see her. For three to four hours, she stood, hugged every fan and genuinely thanked them for supporting her.
She also created an “open door policy,” to create a more authentic connection than her fellow entertainers, giving out unique opportunities, like letting fans take photographs with her CMT Award or hang out with her on the tour bus.
To do: If your mission statement is similar to others in your industry, find a way to stand out and be different. It can be as simple as going above and beyond your competition in customer service. Research the top three complaints in your industry, and work hard to solve those problems. Southwest, for example, eliminated baggage fees, and Zappos has a no-questions-asked return policy.
There will never be another Taylor Swift, just as there will never be another Apple or Amazon, brands that really engage with their audiences. So, I challenge you to be bold, be different and create the best customer experience ever.