Gaining Lifelong Customers is not hard

“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply”. – Steve Jobs

There could be a number of reasons affecting customer loyalty and companies are using every tactic ‘in the book’ to gain lifelong customers. With so many brands and choices – customers of all demographics are having a field day! Brand loyalty can begin anytime in a person’s life and many customers would probably say the reason for their affiliation to one or two brands has to do with the great experiences they had from when they were very young. Positive experiences over time are the number one reason for brand advocacy and that is possibly, why companies and brands, seem to be falling over each other and doing whatever it takes to appeal to any age of customers. Brands have shifted focus and have changed their marketing strategy to appeal to a much wider audience – right from the tiny tots to the top leaders of companies. Gaining lifelong customers has almost become a war of ideas, wit, and, tactics – being used unabashedly by companies and brands in a bid to capture as much of market base as possible. Exciting times, we should think!

We know that customers are now a much smarter, intelligent, and demanding set – and when we say customers, we mean all ages and sizes. Kids of now can operate the latest gadgets and play the most complicated online games better than adults can – companies have latched on to this trend and continue directing products and ideas that would appeal to the youngest possible target audience and keep them ‘hooked’. Gaining lifelong customers is no longer a subject that companies focus on with large corporates and companies alone – everyone is now ‘invited to the party’. The idea is to target all kinds of customers – the younger ones are more impressionable and hence the happy experiences they gain from a brand, would stick with them for life making them lifelong customers for that brand. My friend always took her daughter to this fast food joint, simply because it was a bright and cheery place, which would present her little one with balloons and the food came with a happy toy. Her daughter never really ate anything but loved going to their outlets because of great experiences she had. The kid is now a beautiful tall teenager – end years of teenage life – and yet she still visits the outlets even though the toys and balloons are not what she plays with now! This fast food company certainly has her as a loyal lifelong customer!

This new approach by companies is certainly a great way to gain new customers and reward lifelong customers with benefits and great service. Of course, any journey with a customer or prospective one is never easy and neither is it immediately rewarding, but smart companies understand the value, remaining consistently good with customers, would bring them. Every opportunity a company gets to penetrate a hitherto untapped market must be taken – no one knows where the next set of lifelong customers could come from. Loyal customers not only remain profitable for a company / brand, they also bring in new business and customers. The recommendation from existing customers allays most of the fears and apprehensions new customers may have, getting them to engage with the company much better and sooner than customers who approach the company through other means may. To gain lifelong customers therefore, a company must first turn their existing customers to brand loyalists – excited enough to act as an army of marketers, conquering new markets and customer bases for their ‘favourite company’.

While all that we mentioned above may be really exciting and be the utopian situation that every company / brand would want for itself, the truth is that bad experiences are as much a reality and often upstage the efforts made by a brand to gain popularity and lifelong customers. These poor experiences can be prevented, if only companies were to stop taking their existing customers for granted and only running behind new business. It seems highly imprudent to treat prospective customers – who by the way may never give them business – better than they would those people who have already become customers and have stuck with the company for a long time. This soon enough piques the existing customers who could walk out the door, assuming that the company no longer values their business. Hence, despite the efforts of such companies to gain lifelong customers, all they end up really doing, is replacing the ‘walked out’ customers with new ones. This continues as a cycle, leaving the company with ‘drifters’ and no lifelong customers. If only businesses would understand the value of existing customers – they are the best options for long-term stability, profitability, and success for any company.

The mistake that a number of brands and businesses make is to assume that if their customers are not complaining, they possibly have lifelong customers. Complaining customers do not always mean that they are about to leave, and silent customers who do not complain, does not mean that they are happy. In fact, complaining customers are better ‘candidates’ for the ‘title of lifelong customers – their complaints mean that they want to give the company a chance to improve and when the company makes the effort to resolve their issues, they are more likely to stick with it. In fact, research has proved that among the number of customers that leave a company, at least 20% revealed that they were satisfied with the company. A company must devote time and effort to understanding who the potential lifelong customers would be amongst their large customer bases. Assuming that because no one is complaining, the company is doing a fine job, could be the most disastrous assumption for any company.

Small businesses may believe that they would never to be able to compete with the ‘big boys’ because of the financial prowess these large corporates have. The fact is that even the big ones started small and it would be prudent to ‘take a leaf out of their books’ to understand what they did right to become big and gain a huge base of profitable lifelong customers. It is all about making a genuine and concerted effort to understand what would constitute delightful experiences for them, and what would make customers happy. Check back with customers regularly and any business could learn the art of keeping customers for life. In fact, smaller businesses have a better chance of getting closer and more personal with their customers, given that their customer base would be smaller and they would have less complicated data to sift and manage.

The fate of any company depends completely on how well it serves its customers and the kind of experiences customers have during their journey with the company. The better a company takes care of its customers, the more business they bring in, taking the company to greater heights in a much shorter span than would otherwise be possible. Any successful business owner / brand would surely give credit to customer focus and genuine empathy for their customers, as the reason for their unexpected rise. A customer driven approach will not only get your business lifelong customers but they would not hesitate to boast about the great experiences they have with your company. Can there be a better way to advertise and promote your company?

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