Can we increase customer loyalty?

CBR001831Customer loyalty is an integral part of doing business, but what precisely is involved?  Better yet, how do customers become loyal? Most of what we hear about loyalty centers around loyalty to products, but brand loyalty is different from service loyalty. The first element of customer loyalty to consider is reliability; either product or service, but more so, it is doing what you say your service will do. Breaking it down, customer loyalty is based on doing it right the first time, and doing it on time.

Customers will accept the occasional mistake, but too many mistakes are the kiss of death. Customers will ultimately find a better product or service, won’t refer you to their friends, nor will they stay with you if you let them down too often. We take it for granted that the new computer, the new television, or the new i phone will work, and if it doesn’t the product will be replaced. Do we take it in stride however, that someone does not call us back, does not deliver what she said she would, or does not send the information promised to us? Probably not, because we will most likely move on to someone who does. In other words, everything you say has to be reliable.

Then there is another important aspect of building customer loyalty, and that is one of being likeable. Customers want to feel good about the people they do business with, so don’t ever underestimate the need for “charm school.” Being likeable doesn’t cost a lot of money, but the following people skills may keep your clients coming back:

  • Always display a genuine smile and be warm and friendly.
  • Listen to your customer using eye contact, and make it obvious that you are listening.
  • Address your customer by name.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Treat your customers as you would expect someone to treat you.
  • If there is a problem or complaint, respond quickly and show genuine empathy for the situation. Picture in your mind how you would feel if faced with a similar problem.
  • Occasionally do something special for your client or customer to show her/him that you appreciate their loyalty.

Customers rely on those intangible cues, and as we deliver and develop the interpersonal bonds, we increase our customer loyalty. It’s part of making outstanding service our primary “product.”

photo credit: Spirit-Fire