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How does your behaviour influence customer loyalty?

As business owners we’re constantly looking for ways to engage our customers in a meaningful way that keeps them loyal, and ensures they buy more from us, more frequently. The process of measurement and rewarding might be done informally, or you might have a more structured approach where you formally score your customers based on current and potential spend and reward them accordingly. 

My question is, how is your behaviour impacting customer loyalty? I’m not talking about your behaviour with your customers but your behaviour with your employees. I want you to consider that your employees probably treat your customers in the same way you treat them. I’ll say that again… your employees probably treat your customers in the same way you treat them.

For many businesses, your staff are the front-line of your sales and marketing efforts, so if you’re not investing in your staff in the same way you invest in your customers, and looking to engage them in a meaningful way, they’re hardly going to deliver a great customer experience. Happy employees are much more likely to represent our brand in a positive manner, and that directly impacts our customer loyalty.

Marketing actually begins internally, and not in an artificial way as we might develop an idea for an advertising campaign. I’m talking about getting employees actively involved in the ‘way we do things around here’. Just as we try to generate advocates of our customers, we should be focused on making our employees raving fans of our business.

It sounds like a lot of work. It is however the businesses that are doing it successfully are shown to reap the benefits. Here are a few quick examples:

  • Training: Zappos (www.zappos.com) run a 4-week, fully paid intensive training program as part of their recruitment process, to ensure the new staff are immersed in the company’s values and culture. They even offer trainees $1,000 to quit at the end of the first week, to ensure the people who stay are committed to the business (they get less than 10% take-up). The result: a business that is defined by their superior customer service, and has gone from start-up in 1999, to $1 Billion in sales in 2009.
  • Making your staff ‘owners’ in the business: Staff at the New Belgium Brewing Company (www.newbelgium.com) become ‘owners’ after one year of employment. They also practice open book management on financial performance, which means employees have the information, and incentive to work together on ways to improve business performance. The result: Third-largest boutique brewer in the US, less than 10% staff turnover, strong focus on sustainability and tremendous growth (between 2003 and 2007, production increased more than 50 percent to an estimated 450,000 barrels of beer).
  • Research and Development: At FreshBooks (www.freshbooks.com) their IT development team is given one day a month to ‘Hack Off’ on anything they choose. The changes range from added-features, cleaning up back-end code to developing weird and wonderful applications – the only rule is it needs to be completed in a day. At the end of the day, the whole company takes a tour and votes on the best project. The Result: Amazing business growth – Freshbooks has served 1.6 million users since its launch in May 2004.

All these brands understand how important it is to have employees who are committed, energetic and enthusiastic about their business as it directly results in better service, and increased customer loyalty and retention. 

Are your employees totally engaged in your business? I’d love to hear examples of how your staff engagement has impacted your customer loyalty and overall business performance.