Written by Kushal Dev | Co-founder, Customer Guru
Customer loyalty is a widely misinterpreted term. While it is commonly believed that customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are the same, there is a wide difference between the two. It is believed that customer satisfaction inevitably leads to customer loyalty but this notion might not always be true. Perhaps this quote by Shep Hyken hits the nail on the head
“Customer satisfaction is a rating. Loyalty is a brand.”
While almost every company measures customer satisfaction via some kind of customer feedback, only a few brands are able to build customer loyalty. The problem with satisfied customers is that they are not necessarily loyal! A customer could be very satisfied with your product or service, but would nevertheless move on to another provider for a better price. Brands like Starbucks, Apple and Harley Davidson are testimony to the fact that a differentiated customer experience could go a long way in building customer loyalty. Although there is no definite formula to build and improve customer loyalty, I am sharing a few guidelines that should help.
1. Reward your customers, and not just with discounts
Rewards are the shortcut to customer loyalty. Customers love surprises and gifts in all forms. A personalised thank you card, access to a special event or increased loyalty points are some of the ways to show your gratitude towards customers for their business. Surely we could do much more than just marketing campaigns that send discount coupons to lure customers to impulse buying.
2. Be loyal to attract loyalty
Satisfaction is a phase whereas loyalty is a virtue. To expect the latter in customers, companies should show loyalty towards customers as well. In simpler terms, companies should invest in retaining their customers. Don’t just chase them during the sales cycle. Keep them engaged even after the sale, show them you care by proactively reaching out to ensure they are having a good experience; to win customer loyalty, show them that you are loyal to them first.
3. Make the relationship more than just business like
As a company, we tend to talk to our customers only when they do business with us or when they are in need of our support. This level of engagement will never make us their favourite. Understanding their likes and dislikes and getting to know them up close boosts loyalty. Broaden your relationship with customers and watch how things change for the better.
4. Be reliable
When we keep our promises, we show our customers that they are not taken for granted. Also, their respect for us grows with every commitment we meet. Customer loyalty automatically increases when customers remember us for our sincerity, instead of thinking of us for our inability to deliver on our promises.
5. Give more and more
Giving need not always be in the form of rewards or discounts. Delivering the products ahead of the schedule is also a great way to enhance customer experience and be remembered for a good reason. Through such acts, customers understand that we are trying our best to out-do ourselves and our customers’ expectations.
6. Be honest even if it means no business for you
As our customers have different tastes, not all of our products might interest them. We must accept that and not force anything on them. If you would have the heart to recommend a competitor’s product because it meets a customer’s requirement better, your customer will never forget that. In one of my earlier article, I’ve shared how a restaurant recommended us to another eatery for a night out with friends because their ambience did not suit my requirement. And I was stunned! I ended up going to the same restaurant and am a ‘Promoter’!
The very fact that a company is more interested in the customer’s need than its business, will go a long way in building customer loyalty.
7. Technology is good, but the human touch is great!
Though we are highly dependent on technology for efficiency, there are lots of areas where automated machines cannot answer all of our customers’ queries. Having one to one interactions with our customers makes it easy for both of us to understand each other better. Customers open up more when there is a human voice with an understanding tone on the other end rather than hearing the beep of a machine.
8. Be caring and expressive
We might find that one of our regular customers hasn’t paid us a visit in a long time. It is definitely not a good thing. We must immediately express that we miss them and if the situation permits, invite them back with some kind of reward or gift. The customers need to know that their presence makes a huge difference! If we do not care to let them know, they would not care to visit us either. Let us show some love that our customers cannot help but be loyal to us.
9. Give attention to the little things
If observed closely, companies that are fortunate to have loyal customers have one thing in common; they care about the little things. It could be as small as restaurants adding hooks to the bottom of the tables that hold the customers belongings, or offering them something to eat or drink while they are looking around in our store. Its these little things, which is often overlooked, that wins the hearts of our customers.
10. Recognise your regular customers and invest more in them
Customers are aplenty but who of them all is really helping us grow? Identifying those who never leave us during our highs and lows need to be recognised and treated with extra care. Of course, every customer deserves our attention, but investing in those promising a long term loyalty must inevitably be put in the priority list.
Apart from the above mentioned points, being warm, addressing customers by their name and being approachable are a few more things that work in obvious ways to increase customer loyalty. Customers remember how conversations start and end with an organisation. So it is only wise that we do not take them for granted and rub them the wrong way. Make things more direct and easy. Loyalty will automatically follow.