Long-time customers are a special breed. Not only do they come back again and again, they’re less susceptible to being lured away by the competition and can be a marketing windfall (just think enthusiastic word of mouth). Smart business owners understand that customer retention is very cost-effective, which is why they focus at least as much effort on nurturing repeat customers as finding new ones.
If you’re not presently cultivating long-term customer loyalty, try these action steps to build for the future:
Go above and beyond, all the time. In your customer’s mind, basic service—filling requests correctly, delivering quality goods and services, making sure the product arrives on time—is taken for granted. Customers are looking for businesses that make a priority out of routinely exceeding their expectations.
How well do you and your staff anticipate what customers want? Have you empowered your team to handle unusual requests or to rectify mistakes, without having to consult you every time?
Make it snappy! Whatever bottlenecks or obstacles slow the process of fulfilling your customers’ wishes, get rid of them right away. These days, we’re all accustomed to speedy service. Businesses that recognize the hectic pace of our lives and plan accordingly (thus making the buying experience not only pleasant but convenient) will naturally see repeat customers.
Hire carefully and patiently. Your front-line staff is absolutely essential to building customer loyalty. These men and women provide the all-important “first impression” with the people who patronize your business. It’s better to take some extra time finding the right people to fill these positions rather than rush to fill empty slots with employees who don’t “get” customer service or who just don’t care. Bad service kills any budding loyalty every time.
Find out what your best customers want. You may think you know what your best customers are looking for, but you can’t know for sure without asking. Design an informal survey or email questionnaire asking specifically what else you can do to give your customers an unforgettable purchasing experience. You may be surprised at the comments and suggestions you receive, including some great ideas you might not have thought of yourself.
Reward and recognize loyalty. Repeat customers like what you offer, so why not reward them for choosing you over your competitors? Options include a “special offer to our valued customer” (a 5% or 10% discount off a product’s sale price) or a free gift or purchase card that earns points towards another purchase in the weeks to come. Discounts and special offers to valued customers reinforce the good feeling they have about your business, and drive favorable word-of-mouth, too.
Do what you say you’re going to do. It’s easy to make a promise and forget about it in your busy moments. But keeping your promise builds trust and, without trust, there is no long-term loyalty. Your product must work right and provide value every time. Your service must always deliver on its pledge.
Remember – there’s a lot of bad service and product unreliability out there. You’ll stand out just by treating each customer who walks into your store or visits your website as someone you genuinely value, someone you’re determined to make happy from day one.
For additional information:
Eight Key Ingredients Build Customer Loyalty– BusinessKnowHow.com