Customer Loyalty – you have it or you don’t

“You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Loyalty is about being stable, committed and dedicated to a relationship – you are either loyal or not. This applies to any kind of relationship! Customer loyalty is the same. As a company, you have it or you don’t and that depends on how you have treated them and continue to treat them. It takes time to develop but is quite easily lost if there is divergent and disrespectful behavior towards the customers. A loyal customer is one who will remain with you in a business association and is willing to tolerate some service lapses. Also true is the fact that if there was a service lapse and the recovery the company made on it was quick, effective, the company can be sure to have got customer loyalty. Such a customer in fact, is more likely to remain loyal.

For companies that go down the challenging path of customer loyalty will face several challenges and factors that would inhibit the growth of a business relationship due to not earning this loyalty. From a company’s perspective, managing the bottom-line and controlling costs is also of significance. The challenge posed is being able to balance exceptional service with cost savings keeping the customer in mind. If customer’s do not perceive the balance being in their favor, are most definitely going to take their business elsewhere and seek out a company that is able to balance better in their favor. This is large stumbling block can be overcome by providing a level of customer service that no one in the business has ever provided or is currently providing. This level of service must be sustained through the entire life cycle of the customer with the company to ensure that the company receives the magic formula – customer loyalty.

Loyalty is about being long term – a customer for life. However, what companies need to do is focus on how they service the customer in the present – the next interaction to be specific. In all these interactions the aim should be one – to display to the customer that your company’s service standards are the best in the industry and cannot be replicated by anyone. Don’t let them forget that at any time. A competitor may be indulging in the pricing war but the superlative customer service you are providing should never be equaled by them – it is this benefit that the customer does not want to ever have to compromise on. It may sound easy but for companies that are striving to keep their top spot in the customer service race, know that it is not. Keep up the high standards and it will return to do business with you every time. What you as a company provide as customer service now will ensure that in the future the customer’s focus will be on you and ultimately it will translate to customer loyalty. With each such win you will also be earning brand ambassadors who will attract others to do business with you.

The role of technology and the bombardment of social media can never be overemphasized. The influence of these tools ensures that there is no single customer service strategy that can make it for companies. In this scenario, companies must run nothing short of a crusade to keep ahead. The focus now must be not on whether face-to-face connections with their associates will get customers to speak about your company but on whether the service you are providing will get them to write superlative reviews about your company. Customers are more likely to voice their opinion, over social media sites that in an instant reach the entire social media world. So companies must constantly ask themselves whether they will get positive reviews over this powerful medium. One bad review has the potential to ruin a lot for a company and would be more potent that a good review, unfortunately. The good news is that if a customer has chosen to be associated with your company and has taken the time to write a positive review, you have most likely gained customer loyalty. Keep up the service levels and find ways to make them better and you will ensure many such reviews and loyalties for your company. In today’s world, it would highly imprudent for a company to ignore the importance or usage of social media and make it work advantageously for them. Do a good job in service consistently, get better and continue tipping the scales in favor of the customer – the reward would be customer loyalty. Treat the business of ‘customer loyalty’ as a crusade of sorts and see the loyal customer base expand consistently.

We all agree that for a business to be successful long term, customer loyalty is indispensable and not just a nice to have any more. A quick peek in to what would veer customers to your company and make them loyal should be helpful at this stage:

– Loyalty comes from trust and trust is built when customers can perceive that promises made by the company are consistently delivered on. They should be able to know that whatever they need or expect they will get from the company without hassle or delays. Not delivering on promises will damage your company’s reputation beyond repair.

– The ‘god is in the details’ as quoted by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, holds true even today. The little things influence a customer’s perception – such as remembering and addressing the customer by name. Remembering some minute yet important personal detail of the customer – like a work anniversary, a birthday, wedding anniversary and the likes, makes a world of a difference.

– Provide and add value to the product you are endorsing. Customers should be able to see that the product will serve their purpose not just short term but long term. Adapting a service or product to suit a particular customer, will make them want to use your products repeatedly.

– Making your loyal customers feel special will ensure they remain loyal. Let them in to your world and introduce them to offers yet unreleased in the market. Allow them to select and make choices well before everyone else has even seen the product. Treat them preferentially!

– Clichéd as it may sound, but going the extra mile is a sure shot way to earn customer loyalty. Be helpful and empathetic even if the problem they are facing is not yours or created by your company. Helping them out when they need it, will earn you those ‘brownie points’ that will add up to customer loyalty.

– Turn a frown in to a smile instantly. If they are facing a problem ensure that the response time is short and the corrective action time even shorter. The customer will know that you are their go-to company and will most certainly brag about this experience to everyone.

– Build up an internal loyalty program for loyal customers. Allow them for instance to rake up points on every purchase that can be redeemed for a high end product or even cash. When customers feel that their business is special and being rewarded, it is no secret as to which company they would rather do business with.

– Take care of your internal customers to build their loyalty. When employees are loyal and dedicated, the service they provide will reflect that. The enthusiasm and passion will shine through and they will ensure that they provide a level of service to customers that will wow them. Such service will ensure that customers keep coming back for more.

– It’s easy to get complacent and rest on laurels. However, it is vital to remember that customers need constant engaging. Solicit their feedback to know how well you are doing and what needs to be improved. Providing feedback makes customers feel responsible as well – it keeps them engaged in the processes of the company and makes them feel like they are in control.

Devising strategies and marketing gimmicks to attract new customers is important but retaining the current customers and earning their loyalty is even more vital. Such customers have the potential to get more customers for you and these new customers will already think highly of you. Growing customer loyalty has benefits that surpass any costs, time and effort put in.

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”- WALT DISNEY

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