We’ve all grown familiar with the online storm every time Apple unveils a new iPhone and news of Harry Potter fans camping in front of bookshops.
But customers are not by any means “obliged” to buy a single brand all the time.
How did these products manage to maintain this unbreakable bond with their clients? What is the secret to customer loyalty? Can a small business establish a loyal fan base, or is it exclusive for giant brands?
A closer look at customer loyalty in 14 simple steps…
What Is Customer Loyalty?
Customer loyalty is the likelihood of customers who have dealt with a business before, to deal with it again. It is an attitudinal and behavioral tendency to favor one business over all others. We do it every day. We all have a favorite grocery store, a favorite brand name, a favorite place to go for dessert or pizza, or even a favorite online store to order from. It is in our nature to favor a thing over another; the same applies to the places we buy from.
What Motivates Customer Loyalty?
People are attracted to the same business again and again, for different reasons. Many of these reasons are logical such as: satisfaction with the product or service, reasonable pricing, convenience or performance, familiarity with the buying process, or excellent customer service. Some motivations are purely emotional such as nostalgia, admiring the owner of the business, or trust. In addition, there are also moral motivations such as supporting a cause or believing in a message that the business delivers.
Customer Loyalty: Good for the Business
A natural question pops: why do businesses care about customer loyalty when they can drive new customers? This is a good question, let us look at numbers. “It costs a business about 5-25 times more to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing one.” Moreover, “existing customers spend 67% more than new customers. Marketers and business owners alike, spend too much effort driving new sales, which surely has its benefit. But before doing that, have you made sure that your existing customers are knowledgeable about all your products? Are you covering all their needs? Do you have a strategy to make your business their first choice the next time they want to make a purchase? It is much easier to convince someone who already likes your products and has purchased one of them indeed, than a person who has never heard of you. Your existing customers trust you, and are already happy with your service, that is half the way already.
14 Tips to Earn Customer Loyalty
#1: Create Customer Loyalty Programs
This should be number one, two, and three on this list. Some people find it shameful that loyalty can be bought through loyalty programs, we do not. At the end of the day, business is business. When people make purchases, they pay money, and therefore, they would always be loyal to the company that makes them save the most. Here are different loyalty programs that will have your customers hooked to your company:
Customers earn points every time they purchase a product or come for a service. These points are replaced with awards, and then a new round of point collection begins. The bigger number of points they collect, the bigger prize they get.
VIP Benefits Program
VIP programs are made for customers to keep them coming back. How do they work? By giving exclusive benefits to the participants. Look at this amazing Starbucks rewards program, you will know exactly how exclusive benefits can drive more sales.
Coalition means teaming with another company related to your niche for good deals and discounts. For example, a gym might team up with a popular sportswear line. Sportswear is an essential for gym, and members would love to get a discount from the brand that their gym recommends.
#2: Share Your Values
Values are the principals and philosophies which guide an organization. If you want clients to be loyal to your organization, they should know exactly the “why” behind your business. Be as specific as possible. Share with them your vision, and how you plan to change the community for the better. Social values such as diversity, integrity, and Eco-friendliness are particularly effective.
#3: Excellent Customer Service
Google’s first core value is “Focus on the user first, and all else will follow.” That brings us to the third tip: excellent customer service. The best strategy for successful customer service is to look at things from the other side. In other words, place yourself in the client’s shoes. Find out how what they need and address their problems with friendly solutions. Simply, make their lives easier, save them a hassle, and you will become their first choice.
Keep in mind that almost each customer of yours has been a victim of another business. Although this may cause trust issues, which makes it harder to get people to trust you, you can turn it into a strength through transparency. When your company makes a mistake, admit it. Apologize in a friendly manner and try to compensate those who were harmed.
#5: Create a Sense of Community
Do not keep your customers distant. In other words, do not make them feel like they are just buying a product and leaving. Involve them with your brand by sending an email with the latest money-saving offers, or some valuable information. Social media has made creating a sense of community easier and faster. In addition, try to make things personal. For example, wishing you customers a happy birthday and offering a discount on that day. This will make you their usual choice. Also, encourage word of mouth marketing. If a group of friends become your clients, they will always be coming back to you together. The same thing applies to involving families, and different ages. Ensure that your place is good for everyone. Your place is more than just a business.
#6: Social Impact
This is becoming more important than ever, and is relevant to the previous tip. Trying to build a sense of community means trying to make customers feel that they are a part of something. Including a social impact makes customers feel that they are a part of something bigger. For example, General Motors highlights its efforts to go green and save the environment. They let people know that by buying their products, they are also helping save the environment. People love to know that the money they pay for your organization is changing their society. In fact, they would not mind paying for a cause. Social impact builds your business integrity and reputation.
#7: Be Reliable
There is always something to deliver, and therefore businesses make promises all the time. Your loyal customers want to know that your company is reliable and that they are in safe hands. That will not happen, unless you earn it. How do you earn reliability? Keep your promises every time. Clients can sense it when a business makes shaky decisions or says things they do not mean. Punctuality, for example, is one quality that emphasizes reliability. False promising is a bad habit that many small businesses fall into. Do not promise a call, if you will not make it. If you want to appear like big companies, keep your word.
#8: Go an Extra Mile
It does not end with keeping your word. Although keeping your word will make you appear credible and professional, it will not amaze your clients. What your clients will truly remember is something “extra.” It could be anything. If you say that an issue will be solved within 48 hours, and managed to solve it in the first twelve, this is extra. If you deliver a pizza with a free drink, this is extra. It is simple, yet highly effective. Going an extra mile encourages word of mouth marketing, too. It is a win-win situation.
#9: Positive Response to Negative Reviews
Things will not always be smooth and on the right track, especially during the rush hour. Some of your customers will leave your business unsatisfied and give a bad review later. Do not be disappointed. Learn how to turn your unhappy customers into loyal customers, it is possible. Respond politely, figure out their main concern, and offer a compensation. Saying the right words works like magic. According to Buffer, “the five most persuasive words in the English language are: You, Free, Because, Instantly, and New.” Your unhappy customers will be keen to do business with you again if they know how keen your business is on making them happy.
#10: Be an Expert
Driving a sale should not be the biggest worry of your marketing strategy. People do not only buy from a company because it sells good products, they also choose a company because of its expertise. People choose a specific car manufacturer over and over, because they know how experienced it is at this industry. The buyer knows he/she can go to that manufacturer with any issue, and they will know how to fix it. Utilizing content marketing is the most efficient way to prove that you know what you are doing. Providing your audience with valuable content relevant to your niche is your chance to show off your expertise!
#11: Listen to Your Existing Customers
The best one to explain how to invoke customer loyalty is your existing customers. Find out what they love about your business, what they dislike, and what they think can be improved. Their insights will allow you to view your business from a different point of view. Their feedback will be real, unbiased, and will help you understand your target market better. In addition, people appreciate it when someone cares to ask about their feedback sincerely and with no hidden intentions.
#12: Identify Why People Are Attracted to Your Business
No matter what your field is, there are other businesses who offer the exact products and services. So, what distinguishes your brand? You want your customers to be loyal to you, but what exactly will they be loyal to? What do you have that your competitors lack? Find out your key strength points, these will be the driving force to customer loyalty. Is it great customer service, good pricing, a friendly atmosphere, or safety? Work on these strengths, enhance them, and promote them as well.
#13: Be Flexible
Professional and flexible can go together, despite common belief. Policies are useful for maintaining organization and facilitating the business process. However, too many rules and regulations can ruin the atmosphere, and pushes your people away. Do not make your business stiff. Give space for exceptions and mistakes. Anticipate problems and adapt with changes. If your return policy states that products must be returned within 30 days, and one customer was out of town and is a couple of days late, do not send him/her away. The last thing you want to be known for is business rigidness.
#14: Use Automation
It is called the digital era for a reason. Many of your prospects are out there surfing the Internet and making purchase orders from their mobile devices. It is crucial for your business to be there when customers need you. For many, communicating with businesses via phone calls and boring IVR is history. They would rather “hit you up” with a direct message on social media. It is easier, faster, and frees your customer service representatives.
#15: Make Real Contact Easy
Although we love automation and online services, sometimes they just fail to compete with face to face interaction. Being available online should not mean that real contact becomes a fantasy. Remember that sometimes a smile calms an angry customer. In addition, not all your target market is good at using online channels.
Many prefer old school services to new ones. If your business has been around for a long time, you should not ignore those who have been loyal to your business before the Internet was a thing!
Summary: Plan for Loyalty and Enjoy the Benefits
Put these loyalty steps front and centre of your thinking and – using simple changes in approach – you could enjoy the business gains from welcoming back the same repeat customers time and time again.