There once was a time when customer loyalty was a pretty standard thing, with Mr Jones always shopping in his local butchers for his sausages, never once even considering another butchers or even a supermarket to buy his bangers from. Roll forward to today, and if you ask many business owners about customer loyalty, you will often hear them say that this no longer exists and that customers go with price and convenience, not with loyalty.
I don’t really agree with this if I am being honest, based on my short time in the business world and the customers I have dealt with, I think there is still loyalty out there – I just think these days you have to work harder to earn it, rather than just relying on being the only business in the area so therefore mopping up the money. The Internet means that whether you want a new book to read on your holiday or you want to go shopping without bumping into real people, you can do this without leaving your seat, or even your bath if you are a tablet and risk fan, but this does not mean that as a business, you cannot get loyalty from your customers.
I think there are two reasons why loyalty from customers no longer seems as strong as it used to be:
- Lazy Business Owners
The first one is pretty obvious, the second will probably see me chased down the streets as people get angry that I dare to call some business owners lazy, but when you look at the facts it is easier to spend time moaning about things than finding and implementing ways of actually dealing with them, which is why I really believe that yes, competition has played a part in customer loyalty decreasing, but I also strongly believe that as a business, you can keep that loyalty from your customers, but now you have to work and work hard to keep them.
Chasing new customers is far harder, more costly and often a longer process than keeping and selling to your existing customers, which is why instead of always insisting on the chase for the new client, you always need to make sure that you are working hard with existing customers and also making sure that the next time they need something you are offering, they come to you, because they feel wanted and loved. And after all, don’t we all want to feel wanted and loved? Existing customers know you and have had an experience with you, so you do not need to do all of the pre-love work, you can just get on with selling to them.
It is not easy to keep a customer as there will always be another product or service provider that they could try, but some of the ways I think you can keep the customer returning to a business are:
Deliver A Good Service / Product
You want to be remembered for providing the best service or product that your customer has ever paid for, which if you get right, can make sure that customer remains your customer. Although not always easy for every niche, if you take the example of the local garage who always fits your car in when you need them to, does a super job every time they take care of you and offer prices that you find fair, the chances of you ever leaving that garage are slim, so it’s vital that your business takes care of your customers, offering them a top level service at an affordable price.
Although price is of course a major factor when it comes to choosing a product or service, if you have made the customer happy previously, they are going to consider you for their next requirements (should you keep in touch, but we move on to that next), so you, as a business, should always strive to deliver the best end result you can for every single customer, because you just never know where that one sale or experience could lead to in the future.
Overlooked and underplayed in nearly every business I ever work with is the communication and engagement with customers. They will have 1,000s of customers, 1,000s of contact details and 1,000s of previously happy people, but not once have they ever thought of a mailing list to keep those customers engaged or a newsletter to spread the latest products or services on offer. You have to communicate with your customers to make sure that you stay in their minds when they need something that you have to offer again.
If someone brought something from you in 2013, the chances of them remembering you in 2015 are not only slim, but how are they also going to know you have what they want? It costs next to nothing to run a monthly email campaign to your customers to keep them informed about what is going on, because when it comes to reselling, you have to be remembered and to be remembered, you have to remind people about you on a regular basis. One email a month has been shown to increase customer retention and loyalty, and for the sake of a bit of money and time, this could be the biggest thing you do moving forward.
Everyone loves a special offer, whether it is free delivery on their next shopping purchase with you or a month free on a service they buy from you, no matter what you offer (as long as it’s worth their while) a special offer is a great way of keeping that customer yours. And, it doesn’t even have to really cost you very much, as long as the offer is going to save them a bit of money or time then they will feel happy and fuzzy inside, and there is most definitely a chance that they will take you up on the offer as well.
There are two reasons why I think special offers work and they are, one, because the customer could well make that purchase there and then and two, because it makes your existing customers feel rewarded, so even if they do not take you up on your special offer of the day, there is a fair chance they will remember the business because of that special offer, so it can be a win win for everyone that has the opportunity to offer such things. As I mention, from free delivery through to free contract extensions, there are so many things that you could offer that will not cost you a great deal, but in the long run, earn you a great deal as well.
As a customer you always like to feel you are being heard and listened to, whether it is a survey about the last contact they had with a business or a review of a product – everyone in the modern era of social media and the World Wide Web (the Internet, or Google as some people know it) love to offer their opinion. So, rather than shy away and fear what the people have to say, start encouraging it, because the more feedback and involvement you get from customers the better, and let me tell you why.
Products and services with good reviews sell better than those that don’t. In fact, it has been proven that people will buy the same product at a slightly higher price, when choosing between a company with a few good reviews and those without. Also, lots of reviews make you look busy and people like to buy from successful businesses, as they feel they can trust you and therefore will buy from you. The final point is that customers like and respect a business that encourages feedback, because they know if they do have a problem you will be there to sort it out, which when risking trying someone new is more likely to keep them with you as a customer.
The final point and probably the one I shouldn’t have to really mention is the need to respect the customer and understand that without them, there is no you. Sometimes it is fair to say that the customer is not always right, but generally, any issues that occur can usually be traced back to expectations not being set out from the start or a lack of communication during, but if you make it your main goal to respect the customer and always make sure they feel like they are, you won’t be going far wrong.
When times are busy and the email won’t stop dinging and the phone won’t stop ringing, plus Skype is constantly flashing along with people knocking on your door, it can be hard to show the level of respect you would always want to. But, it only takes one customer to feel a bit “resentful” of the way they have been treated to then spread this resentment like wildfire, and as the old saying about a lifetime to build a reputation but a minute to break it can be totally true, as many businesses have found out by the odd email, tweet or reply that really should of never left the building in the first place.