Most people would like to be loyal to a business or a brand, but it’s easier than ever not to.
We are all creatures of habit; find a business or product you like and we tend to stick with it — until there is reason not to. The rub today is that with so much information and competition, there are more reasons than ever to switch allegiances — to a business that may be less expensive, or more convenient, or who chats with you online, or whatever.
So the question then becomes: What can your business do to create more customer loyalty in an age of instant gratification?
Here are a few things that I think can help:
1. Foster a loyal staff: One of my favorite surveys ever found that one common characteristic among very successful small businesses was that the owners of these businesses were good bosses. Good bosses create happy employees and happy employees generate happy, repeat customers.
Loyalty is contagious.
Therefore, the best way to foster a loyal group of customers is to start with a base of trained, passionate employees who are invested in your business, who like it and you, and who are there for more than just punching the clock and picking up a paycheck. When every employee is on board with the company vision, it shows. The passion of your happy employees will show in their work, and it will be, yes, contagious.
2. Provide consistently great service. In this era, failing to provide fast, easy and excellent customer service at any point can be costly. Whether it is over the phone, in person, using social media, live chat, or what have you, make sure that all employees dealing with customers are committed to providing the best service possible at all times. Empower them to solve problems. And remember, things like form emails and other automated responses may be time savers, but that time savings often comes at the cost of lost customers.
3. Reach out: Social media has changed the game. Whether you do it or not, people’s (sometimes unconscious) expectations are that they will hear from, and in turn can interact with, the companies with whom they do business.
That said, there is a fine line between reaching out and making a connection and spamming people. Sharing relevant information is the key. Things like sales, new products and large company-wide changes are excellent e-newsletter and social media topics. This balance is something that is learned over time, and when done right, each new communication will spark a renewed interest in your site and product.
4. Create an incentive program: At the end of the day, nothing says, “thank you” like free stuff. Instituting a loyalty rewards program is an easy way to let your customers know that you appreciate the fact that they continue to choose to do business with you. Whether you offer a simple coupon code, a “Buy x, get one free” card or even a points system, giving customers a reason to keep coming back can only provide positive results.
The good news is that we are in fact creatures of habit. By focusing on what you do best and creating a culture that respects and appreciates your old customers, you will give no one a reason to change, and these days, that’s half the battle.