How would you feel about having a loyal, dependable group of customers who always turn to your business first? Customer loyalty is one very important key to business success. Loyal customers will pay a little more, follow you through almost any transition, and create the word-of-mouth buzz that will keep your business hopping. It’s easy to see how a dedicated customer base can help any small business, but sometimes not so easy to see how you can build one of your own.
Get to know your customers. Don’t just stick to standard sales presentations and just-the-facts phone calls. Talk to your customers about their challenges. Get to know what makes them feel good about a product and what turns them off entirely. If you focus on getting to know just a few of your top customers in this way, you will be able to satisfy their needs more completely and provide a product that is higher value to them. You will also be closer to pulling in more people like them.
Focus on service. For many modern customers, service is crucial to gaining and retaining loyalty. You should have at least one employee on staff who is in charge of customer service. This person should be reachable for telephone, email, and of course in person if you have brick-and-mortar stores. If your business is very small, this can be just part of their duties. What’s important is that you have established a go-to person who has the right kind of attitude, the power to resolve issues and ensure that your customers have a level of service that will keep them coming back.
Communicate effectively. Everyone is barraged with sales pitches, so you will really stand out in the crowd if you drop the sales pitch occasionally and tell customers about who you are. Vary the types of communication that leave your business so you don’t fall into a rut and get repetitive. And don’t forget the other half of communication: listening. Offer customer surveys or merely ask a few people whether they enjoyed their experience and why or why not. This two-way communication builds rapport and makes your customers feel like they are friends—hopefully loyal friends.
Reward loyalty. Many companies have found that they have good luck with rewards. Whether this reward is as simple as a punch card giving customers a free drink with every eighth purchase or a complicated points system, offering a reward gives your customers a compelling reason to return to your business. Everyone likes presents, and company rewards often feel like a gift. Another form of reward is an occasional customers-only event. This can be a lavish cocktail party, a golf game, or even an informal open house. Hosting an event for loyal customers makes them feel included in your business.
Respect your audience. Many communities include people of other backgrounds. It’s important that you know what ethnic and national groups are included in your target market audience and make sure to accommodate, or at least respect them. For instance, if many of your customers are Hispanic, having a bilingual employee can go a long way toward making the consumers feel more comfortable. Respecting other cultures isn’t just good for your bottom line; it’s good for our communities as well.
Many businesses fail to actively seek customer loyalty and suffer the consequences. The most unfortunate part of this is that building customer loyalty doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. As you can see, there are a variety of ways to let your customers know that you care and get them to care as well and it is never too late to win back lost customers.