Customer Loyalty 7 Techniques to Building a “Die Hard Customer Base”
Customer loyalty isn’t automatic; you must earn it. Loyal customers will
help you bring in repeat business and referrals, so they cannot be overlooked.
As a matter of fact, you’ve probably heard of the 80-20 rule, where 80% of your
business comes from 20% of your customers. While that may depend on the type
of business you are in, there is no disputing that holding onto a current customer
is much less expensive than cultivating a new customer. With these things
in mind, let’s explore some methods to keep those current customers loyal and
have them become advocates for your company. If you don’t yet have a specific
plan for customer loyalty, these tips will help.
1. Don’t Overlook Current Customers in your Marketing
Give some thought to the way you market to current customers.Can you
build customer loyalty by offering them things that are not available to non-customers
– maybe a free consultation or something else of value? Remember, it’s
the perceived value that is important to your customer. Even if the item you
offer costs only your time, it still may be extremely valuable to your customer.
Exclusivity will also go a long way toward making your current customers feel that
they are getting something special from you. Make them aware that the offer
is available to them, and only them. Many companies are so interested in gaining
new customers that they make better offers to new customers, often resulting in
feelings of betrayal and abandonment by their current customers. Cell phone
companies are famous for this because their current customers are usually tied into
a long-term contract. This IS NOT a good way to do business.
2. Stay In Touch with Your Customers
It’s a proven fact that the more a customer hears from you, the more likely
you will be on their mind when they require your services. These “touch
points” do not need to be sales oriented. As a matter of fact, the less
“salesy” they are, the better. Send greeting cards at holidays and
birthdays. Let them know what your company is up to simply by sending a short
newsletter each month. Make sure the information you send is useful because
that will help build trust and strengthen the relationship. If they perceive
that you are helping them, they will be more inclined to become loyal customers
3. Be Sure Your Staff has “Bought In” to the Quest for Customer
Customers want reliability and familiarity. They are looking to build a solid
relationship just as much as you are. They want to deal with people who know
them and their preferences. They may even let you make a mistake now and then
because it is easier to let you slide than “train” a new company to
take care of their needs in the way they have taught you; this means that your
company must have a loyal workforce. Constantly changing employees will do nothing
toward building strong customer relationships. Follow this rule
of thumb: If you treat your employees well, they will treat your customers
4. Know the Stages of Loyalty and React Accordingly
It is a step-by-step process to grow customer loyalty; it won’t happen
over night. The six stages of loyalty are: Suspect – Prospect
– First Time Customer – Repeat Customer – Client – Advocate
Let’s take a brief look at each stage. A suspect is someone who might have interest
in what you are selling, but you don’t have enough information about them to
know for sure. A prospect is someone who definitely fits the profile of a
customer who would buy your product or service. A first-time customer has
purchased from you only once, while a repeat customer has been back two or more
times. The client stage is where loyalty becomes most important. The
mindset of a client is one of being “under your wing.” They feel
that you are looking out for their best interests and will not steer them wrong.
Once you have moved your relationship to this point, the next stage is easy.
Your customer becomes an advocate when they begin working to help you sell your
product, whether they know it or not. They refer friends and acquaintances,
always speak positively about you, and bring your name up without being prompted.
Obviously, the client advocate is the greatest customer you could ask for!
5. Don’t Sell Until They are Ready to Buy
Customers today are better informed than ever. They have access to information
that allows them to easily research and compare goods and services. They are
also more intolerant than ever about being “sold to.” They want
to be treated with respect and they expect personalized and pleasant service.
You can take advantage of this by keeping in touch with customers on a friendly
basis and staying on their minds. When they are ready to buy, they will think
6. Deal with Problems and Complaints Immediately
Most of the time, the customer rarely makes a complaint with the company.
Instead they complain to their friends, neighbors, coworkers, and anyone who will
listen. For this reason, it is important to follow up with your customers
and make sure there are no complaints; if there are, you must attend to
them immediately. Research shows that a dissatisfied customer is more than
five times more likely to tell people about his negative experience than a happy
customer will talk about their positive experience. However, you can turn
the tables on an unhappy customer by fielding their complaint and solving the problem.
How many times have you heard someone talking about how nice it was to have someone
actually listen to their complaint and take care of it? The reason people
talk about situations like that is because it is a personal victory for them and,
they take ownership in getting it resolved properly.
7. Use Multiple Channels to Communicate and Stay Responsive with Your Customers
Recent research suggests that customers who receive communication through different
methods are more likely to remain loyal. Their perception is that you are
making an effort to keep them informed and provide customer service using a variety
of channels at your disposal. As long as the information is valuable and not
sales-oriented, your customer will appreciate it. This is especially true
in dealing with customer support issues. The moment you begin using email,
postal mail, and phone calls for the “hard sell” is the same moment your
customer begins looking elsewhere.
You can use these seven tips to start gaining loyal customers right away!
On occasion, you may want to come back and review this list to make sure you are
still doing everything you can to create loyal customers. Keep an eye out
for the next installment in the series where we “get into the heads” of
buyers to find out what makes them tick.
Follow Your Customer Inc.