How to Encourage Customer Loyalty
by Patricia Twitchell
Not only is it less expensive to build loyalty in your existing customers, but often they will spend more with you than a new customer. Here are six key elements of good customer service that will have your customers coming back again and again.
In today’s competitive world of retail, many stores are implementing external marketing programs designed to attract new business. Unfortunately, the cost can be very high with little return on investment. What is often lost in the mix is the fact that it can be much more cost effective to have a loyal customer base that returns again and again rather than constantly seeking the next new customer. Not that there is anything wrong with new customers, but if that is you primary focus you may be missing a great opportunity with your existing clients. When you put attention on your current customers and they feel appreciated they tend to be more loyal. Loyal customers are often willing to spend more and tell others about the experience they have with you.
In the ten years I have owned and operated Just Bears and Stuff, a specialty gift shop located in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, I have learned a great deal about customer service. Even though some of it was from books, tapes and articles such as you are reading right now, much of my insight came from my customers.
Not only have I managed to stay in business, I have a very high percentage of repeat customers. I don’t say this to impress anyone, but to impress upon you how important great – not just good – but great customer service is.
Here are some of the primary aspects of customer service that have allowed me to not only survive, but thrive in business for the last decade.
1. The customer has to feel like they are getting something special. Remember their name and use it often. Get to know something about them. The more special they feel the more they will want to return to see you. Guaranteed.
2. Be willing to go the extra mile. By going the extra mile they do feel they are the most special person to us. Something we offer is beautiful gift-wrapping at no extra charge. From the time I was a child I loved to wrap gifts. Now I have the opportunity to do this on a daily basis. This is an added value I provide. What added valued can you add to let you customers know you are going the extra mile?
3. Never make a customer feel as if what they are asking for is ridiculous. Although there may be occasion that what they are asking for is more than you can do, it is in the way you let them know this that determines the feeling they get from the experience.
4. Be knowledgeable about your product or service and industry. When my customers look to me to make suggestions they feel a sense of security in knowing that I know my product line extremely well. I pride myself in helping my customers select just the right gift for whomever they are choosing it for.
5. Realize you are dealing with real people with real needs. Regardless of the business you are in, people make the choice to do business with you. If they feel like their needs are being met, they tend to return again and again. Interestingly, there are some customers I have never met face-to-face. Many find me on the Internet. I have customers all over the world and each one is so special to me and they know it. You can have a great relationship with your customers face-to-face or over the phone.
6. Make the experience pleasant. When my customers feel that the experience was so pleasant more times then not they will return for their next gift giving needs. Again, whether it is over the phone or face-to-face I want my customers to know how important they are to me. And I will do whatever is humanly possible to let them know this.
As you think about your experiences with customer service, what is it that makes the experience so special? And do people feel your level of service is the best it can be? You will find that by building a loyal customer base you will be able to thrive in your business for years to come.
Patricia Twitchell is the proprietor of Just Bears and Stuff, a unique gift shop located in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. Nestled in the scenic mountains, it is a favorite place to visit for people from all over the country. She publishes a free ezine with teddy bear facts. It's available at www.justbearsandstuff.com. Call 1.541.863.6037