You work hard to attract your customers, so it only makes sense to have strategies in place for keeping them. Here are five ways that many businesses have found effective for building customer loyalty.
- Provide an exceptional customer experience.While this might seem kind of obvious, it is rarely easy or simple. Your customer’s experience is ultimately your brand identity. If their actual experience is not living up to how you wish to be perceived, then change the areas that do not measure up. When asked about their competitive differential, most businesses are quick to claim that they provide better service. But do you really? How do you know how your service compares to your competitors? Bottom line: Good or even excellent customer service is not enough. Surprise your customers by far exceeding their expectations and they will return again and again.
- Be real, genuine and transparent.One thing that builds distrust with your customers is when they sense you do not really mean what you say. If you market yourself as one thing but the customer experience is something different, they will wonder what else does not line up.Be honest with your customers even when things do not go as planned. Tell the truth, keep them updated and address the problem as soon as possible. Most of your customers will appreciate your candor. Bottom line: Don’t be defensive when there is a problem. Take responsibility and focus on solving it. Building trust in your relationship will go a long way in winning customer loyalty.
- Build a sense of affinity.Most people like being a part of a community, so give them ways to feel like they are part of something special. Social media channels provide a great way to talk with your customers and invite them to participate by posting photos with your product and sharing your information with their friends.Another great way to build affinity is through customer appreciation events, reward programs and incentives. Bottom line: Expand your customer interaction to a relationship instead of just a transaction.
- Ask for a review.In today’s online culture, studies show that as many as 88% of customers will read a review to determine the quality of a company. Furthermore, they report trusting that review as much as a personal referral.Bottom line: Make it easy for your satisfied customers to leave you a review. Be sure to thank them when they do.
- Have processes that are smart but flexible.Automation can be a good thing if they contribute to an exceptional customer experience. For example, including reminders and notifications is a process to potentially head off problems before they happen. However, be sure that you are not selling out the opportunity to build a personal relationship with your customer in favor of technology.In this age of computers and easy access to information, it can be easy to rely on FAQ’s or other online information to answer customer questions. However, a real point of differential can be making it easy to communicate with a real person. Make sure your contact information is readily available on your social media, advertising pieces and website.It’s also important to be flexible in your processes. There are always exceptions to the rule and remember, “The customer is always right.” Empower your employees to make decisions on the spot that bend or break the usual process in order to retain a customer. Nothing frustrates a customer more than to hear “No,” especially in a situation where it lacks common sense.Bottom line: Be efficient but balance it with the goal of providing the best experience for every individual customer.
*Published in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Tools for Success magazine.
Author: Bethany Meadows is the owner of Vertical Solutions Media Inc, a full service marketing agencies that specializes in helping small businesses build strong brands and increase revenues.