Ways to Earn Customer Loyalty

Customer service is what you and your organisation provide. Customer loyalty is the result of the service – Shep Hyken

 Customer loyalty is the desired outcome of every relationship between a brand and customer; a mark of the success of that brand. Over time, consumers tend to associate certain attributes with a product or service they consume on a regular basis.  The consumer will favour one brand over another based on the quality, convenience, performance and customer service it offers. This consistent favouring of one over another brand is what loyalty is all about; the trust that customers repose on that brand is ultimately that companies work towards – loyalty ensures future profitability. Customer loyalty is the result of a chain of positive events that starts with a high quality product backed by good quality customer service leading to customer satisfaction. This results in a customer choosing to buy one rater than another product; preferring one brand or shop over others consistently.

It is an obvious fact that loyal customers are more valuable and profitable than other customers. Why? They buy more, they buy more often and they cost less to serve. A loyal customer also insulates a company from price competition. Finally and very importantly, loyal customers are like brand ambassadors. Loyal customers often feel compelled to offer justification for their loyalty and in the process extol virtues of the product or service they prefer. This positive word of mouth is invaluable for brands looking to create customer loyalty.

 

There are several aspects that converge to create this feeling of allegiance towards one brand and the exclusion of others. A consistently positive emotional experience using a product or service, the satisfaction that stems from the physical attributes of the service or product and the value of that experience in the customer’s mind all contribute to growing this sense of loyalty.  It is this customer satisfaction; with its very strong emotional component that can and should lead to customer loyalty. It is ultimately about building a company that customers love!

The first step towards building the loyalty of customers is to concentrate on the basics: create a good quality product and make sure the quality is consistent. Offer top notch customer service and ensure complaints if any are addressed promptly and satisfactorily. Have in place a set of standard operating procedures so that your company performs consistently and your customer knows what to expect.

Build customer loyalty by associating your brand with certain values. According to one study,  69% of brand loyalists surveyed said that shared values were the main reason for their preference for one over another company. The perception of shared values may come from several directions. The sort of advertising a company does demonstrates it in a certain light: the advertisements for a certain food product could speak about family values, a vegan product could project empathy for animals and a cycle manufacture could align itself with environmental issues such as reducing one’s carbon footprint and so on. Telling the consumer what your product stands for will strike a chord with your consumer and help to earn their loyalty.

Transparency in all dealings and working to building trust is another essential aspect of creating brand loyalty. If there is a problem with a product, conduct a product recall. If there is bad news for the company, such as a security breach, share this without trying to hide it. Immediately follow this up with updates about remedial measures and provide an assurance of no repeat of the oversight that caused the situation in the first place. This perception of honesty and good faith builds trust, which in turn builds customer loyalty.

A company also earns the trust of their customer when the customer is convinced that the company is acting fairly and is endeavoring to deliver good value for money. A customer, who feels that a company is not trying to rip them off, is reassured about reposing faith in that company. Even a marginal price rise will not deter the customer from buying when the customer is convinced that the company delivers good value for money. Keeping in touch with your customers and creating a relationship with them is another way to foster that elusive sense of allegiance. Small gestures matter: sending a welcome or a thank you email when the customer buys a product and follow up emails subsequently to ask about problems they encountered; if any. Organising social media promotions where customers are encouraged to participate and share comments, photos and feedback about their experiences with your brand is not difficult and may be very effective for the entire exercise of creating customer loyalty. Involving customers in such exercises, helps create a sense of community and belonging. Not only that, this could actually mean valuable customer feedback upon which a company can act. Take this a step further: make changes based on the feedback that a loyal customer provides and you cement that loyalty even further.

Companies can also work to foster the sense of community and the connection between the customer and the company in other ways: send birthday greetings to show you care; offer a special discount on a birthday or during the anniversary week. This lets the customer know that the company cares and cares enough to offer actual, tangible benefits to customers the company considers valuable. Additionally, examine your workforce. You want your employees to be committed to creating and preserving customer loyalty as well. Do your employees conform to the same ideals and values that your company stands for? Are they able to communicate this effectively when dealing with customers? This is something that employers may be looking to address at the interview or hiring stage and consolidate by appropriate training and refresher courses in the future.

Create loyalty programs to encourage your customer to buy from you and not others. Make it profitable for your customer to continue to buy from you. For instance, your customer can earn points each time they make a purchase or spend a specified amount. These loyalty points accumulate and then can be redeemed against future purchases, entitle the customer to a gift or other benefit such as special member discounts and so on.

Another instance could be a customer being rewarded for eating at a restaurant repeatedly. While the taste and quality of food and the restaurant ambience are aspects that typically determine customer loyalty in this instance, a loyalty programme could help tilt the choice. Say, on a given day, a family is undecided about choosing to dine at one or another restaurant. It is more likely that that family will decide to choose the restaurant that will serve them one free roast chicken every fifth visit or after every five roast chickens ordered and so on. Anticipate the needs of your customer to create and retain their allegiance towards your company or brand. Currently your customers enjoy using a product or service of yours because it offers utility, convenience and possibly affordability. By anticipating the needs of your customer, you are ready with a solution when a new need arises. The customer does not find the need to turn elsewhere when their favourite brand already provides a solution.

Strive to earn customer loyalty and to retain it. It is not easy to get; but once you have it, that loyal customer base will be your company’s most valuable asset.

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