7 Secrets of Driving Customer Loyalty and Profits
In these still-not-entirely-unrecessionary times it’s important to find a way to escape the commodity-style pricing wars and strengthen the marketing backbone of your company. The most reliable and affordable way to achieve both these goals is by building a strong personal bond with your customers.
Loyal customers will see you as more valuable than a mere commodity, and that can serve you as a powerful marketing arm. For example, they'll be more likely to go out of their way promote and defend your company online and offline — for free. Here are seven ways to get the process of building customer loyalty started:
- Do your doorknobs shine? Research shows that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly, and for much longer, than all the rest of it. Make sure that the first and final elements of your customer interactions are particularly well engineered, because they're going to stick in customers’ memories.
- Set your clocks forward. Modern consumers expect speedier service than any generation before them. Not only speedier than their parents expected, but speedier than they expected this time last year. In this age of iPhones and Droids, of Amazon.com and Zappos, you may as well not deliver your product or service if you’re going to deliver it late.
- Make your transactions personal. When customers choose to interact with one of your employees, they want the transaction to be real (this applies online as well as offline). For example, instead of a web-based chat window that blandly announces "You're now chatting with Jane," try "You're now chatting with Jane Chang-Katzenberg." Customers will treat your “Jane” better and they'll take her advice more seriously. They'll also be more likely to want a committed customer relationship with her company.
- Remember each returning customer. Whatever your business, and no matter how large, work to achieve the computer-assisted effectiveness of a beloved bartender, doorman or hairstylist. Be the kind of business that would know Bob's preferences — e.g., the name of Bob's pet, when Bob was in your store last, and so on. Superb client tracking systems can create that same "at home" feeling in your customers, regardless of the size and price point of your business, and whether it exists online or offline.
- Anticipate a customer's wishes. When a customer's wish is met before the wish has been expressed, it sends the message that you care about the customer as an individual. That cared-for feeling is where you generate the fiercest loyalty.
- Don't leave the language your team uses up to chance. Develop and rehearse a list of vocabulary words and expressions that fit your brand perfectly. For example, the expression “no worries" sounds fine if a clerk at a Bose store says it, but would be exceedingly off-brand for the concierge at The Four Seasons. Equally important, search and destroy any vocabulary that could hurt customers’ feelings. For example, your service team should never tell a customer “you owe us.” Try instead: “our records seem to show a balance … "
- Be patient when filling positions. In an organization aiming for superb service, a single disagreeable or unresponsive team member can erode customer loyalty and team morale. That's why it can be better to leave a position unfilled rather than rushing to hire someone unsuitable. Customer excellence is most fully achieved once you become an expert at recruiting, selecting, training, evaluating and reinforcing the efforts of service personnel.
Micah Solomon is a customer service speaker and co-author of "Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization." Micah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.