7 Ways to Turn Customers into Fans

C Space have often spoken at AURA events over the years, we welcomed this article on the subject of turning customers into fans, by Global CEO of C Space, Charles Trevail. This article is taken from Outside In podcast, to listen to the full podcast, click here.


7 Ways to Turn Customers into Fans

When I started the Outside In podcast, my goal was to speak to – and learn from – the companies and leaders that are making real progress with customer centricity. Those who are putting it into practice and building customers into their business and their culture.

Craig Donaldson, CEO of Metro Bank, is just the type of person I had in mind.

For those who aren’t aware, Metro Bank is the first new high street retail bank to launch in the UK in more than 100 years. Founded in 2010 by Vernon Hill, former chairman and president of Commerce Bank in the U.S., Metro Bank has grown from zero to 1.2 million customers. Last year, for the second consecutive year, Metro Bank was once again named ‘Most Trusted Financial Provider’ by Moneywise.

During our conversation, Donaldson said that last year Metro Bank only spent £60,000 on advertising. At the same time, it doubled its customers. One of the reasons behind this remarkable success is that the bank creates “fans” or promoters out of its customers. Donaldson insists that fans are created organically by investing in the experiences and relationships people want to have, rather than trying to persuade them through ads. Outstanding -- and unexpected -- experiences inspire customers to tell their friends and family. And, as he says, “It’s then our job to surprise and delight those customers and create more fans.”

Here are seven lessons from our conversation.


1. Stop following all the stupid rules your competition follows.

Metro Bank is an example of a company that promises customers a lot and delivers even more. Lots of banks employ strict or rigid rules, even if those rules are not customer-friendly. Metro Bank eschews the “stupid rules” its competitors follow; breaking them is an opportunity to surprise customers.

For example, the Magic Money Machine, a free coin sorting and counting machine with fun digital graphics that anyone can use. Guess the amount within £1, and you win a prize. It attracts new customers, and it makes going to the bank fun for kids -- not to mention a little easier for parents. Also, dogs are welcome inside every store. And, every store is open seven days a week, opening 10 minutes early and closing 10 minutes late each day, which can save customers who are running late the hassle of having to come back the next day.


2. Improve the brand experience, and sales will follow

Donaldson believes that profits should be an “output of good inputs.” Put another way: focus on adding value to the customer and the profits will follow. That’s why sales targets don’t exist at Metro Bank. Instead, employees have brand targets. They are incentivised and measured based on three brand experience categories: Net Promoter Score, mystery shopping (or “magic shopping,” as Donaldson calls it), and customer complaint handling. People always know when they’re being sold to, and Donaldson says this can be a big turn-off. You create fans when you focus your energy on making the brand experience the best it can be.


3. Put culture at the top of your long-term strategy

Culture is palpable; when it’s strong and distinct, employees, customers, even outsiders instantly feel it. But as a company grows, culture can erode. People can feel that, too. Donaldson believes that the moment you take your eye off our culture, it will veer off course, and suffer long term as a result.  


4. Use a common language 

Donaldson says language is hugely important within a company; it brings energy, honesty, and common ground to every interaction. He refers to his staff as colleagues, not employees. Metro Bank has stores, not branches. Each year, they receive “amazing reviews,” not performance reviews.


5. Be present -- online and off.

It’s difficult to nurture culture if leaders aren’t there to experience it for themselves. Donaldson loves visiting branches and says, “You can viscerally feel if it’s not right just by talking and being there.” He makes it a point to visit each store twice a year – he calls it his “Mischief and Mayhem Tour” – and meets in-person with a customer and a potential customer once a day.

He’s also constantly engaging with colleagues online using Yammer, an intra-company communication platform. It’s a great way to share ideas and bring up issues to senior management openly and honestly.


6. Don’t hide from customer complaints. Use them as inspiration.

Donaldson has customer complaints sent directly to him. Once a month, he spends hours with senior leadership poring over every single one. It can be a painful process, but he says it helps hone customer intuition and builds empathy for customers. Sometimes it opens up breakthrough and new business ideas.

For instance, one customer complained about misplacing her bank card, and was distressed further because she knew where it was but was afraid somebody else would misuse it. She was reluctant to cancel her card because it was connected to various sites and apps like Amazon. Two weeks later, a Metro Bank developer launched a feature that lets customers turn their card “on” and “off” through the bank’s mobile app. It’s now a fixture on the app.


7. Be the extreme version of your company values.

Above all, Donaldson says that leaders need to believe in the values and culture of their company. “I have to be the most extreme version of the values,” he says. “Data is really important, but I think intuition and belief in what you do is more important. I passionately believe customers want and deserve better service and that our job is to deliver it.”

As a CEO myself, this really resonated. When you listen to Donaldson speak about doing what’s right for customers or how proud he is of his team, you can feel his passion and sincerity. I encourage any CEO or business leader to listen to this episode, and consider what else you can be doing to create a company that truly is customer-inspired.

To listen to this episode, go to the Outside In with Charles Trevail podcast.



Charles Trevail – Global CEO of C Space and Interbrand

Trevail has been a leader in the consulting world for over 20 years. He co-founded the pioneering co-creation consultancy, Promise, in 2003, which merged with C Space in 2012. As Executive Vice President – Global, Trevail led offices outside of North America, helping globalize C Space’s client base and business. In 2014, Trevail stepped into the role of CEO of C Space and has led the successful transformation based on the notion of Customer Inspired Growth, leading to Global Agency of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Trevail was appointed as Global CEO of Interbrand Group of Companies.