Building Customer Loyalty
by John Mehrmann
Every business owner wants to have loyal customers that love their business. But if you want loyalty, you have to give it. Commit yourself to excellence in these five key areas and your customers will reward you with their repeat business and dedication.
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The following tips can apply to virtually any profession or industry. If you think that these are self-evident, then I challenge you to take a personal assessment. Print this page and keep the list on your desk for one week. Place a checkmark next to each item when you conduct an activity that fulfills one of these objectives. Can you check all of these items in one week? Are you actively practicing the commitment that you desire from your customers?
If you want loyalty, you have to give it. Make a list of your most important customers or clients. For your general customers or clients, demonstrate your commitment in general terms and especially when they need you. For the most important customers, demonstrate your commitment and let them know how much you appreciate them. Sometimes loyalty takes sacrifice.
Building a lasting relationship requires communication. Communication means listening to your customer or client, as well as conveying your own message. One sided communication is a speech, mutual communication is a conversation. Communicate when things are going well and when there are problems. When things are going as expected, bring it to their attention. When there are problems, provide the scope of the challenge and your solutions, preferably before the customer even knows that the problems exists. This builds credibility, confidence and trust.
Understand Your Customer's Goals
The products or services that you provide are only meaningful in the context of your customer's objectives. What you do is intended achieve financial or strategic objectives, or fulfill a need. Understand and communicate your value from the perspective of the customer. Be aware of changes that may affect the customer requirements and your perceived value so you can adjust accordingly.
Related: How to Cultivate Existing Customers
One of the best ways to manage expectations is to be consistent. Be consistent with your quality, your responsiveness and delivery of goods or services. Establish a routine schedule for communication with your most important customers, so you can call "just to talk" and check the pulse of the relationship.
There are two easy ways to build credibility. First, do what you say you are going to do. If you leave a message to call back or make a commitment for follow-up, then call when you said you would call. Even if you do not have all the answers, call when you commit to call back. The second way to build credibility is to take time to get the best answer. Sometimes you may not know the best response to a situation or request. Ask for time to research and come back with the most accurate answer or information that you can obtain. Taking time for accuracy can be far more beneficial to your customer than a quickly but incorrect reply.
Related: Building Credibility of Your Brand Online
Cracker Jack Surprise
Give your customers something more than expected. Don't tell them in advance, just do something to demonstrate your appreciation. It can be as simple as a greeting card, email or small token to show your appreciation. Loyalty is a relationship, and it should be nurtured as you would care for a friend. Do not take it for granted.
Words of Wisdom
"An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness."
- Elbert Hubbard
"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans."
- Peter Drucker
"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."
- Vince Lombardi
John Mehrmann is a freelance author, industry expert and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital.