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Customer loyalty doesn’t just happen

I have talked about customer loyalty in the past (Loyalty really does matter), but after speaking with a business owner on this topic last week, I thought I might share some more thoughts with you.

All business owners dream of having a following of regular loyal customers, and, with the right approach and right tools for many businesses, including yours, this can be a reality.

Loyal customers offer you a strong competitive advantage and will also bring you new customers through word of mouth recommendations.  But customer loyalty does not just happen – you need to be hitting the right mark with your customers.  In fact, if you want customers to be loyal, you need to start planning for it before they buy anything from you.

A loyal customer is one who comes back to you even if they may have an unsatisfactory experience.  While customer satisfaction is important, aiming for customer satisfaction is no longer enough.  You need to create and build loyalty.

In a nutshell, what you are aiming to achieve is:

  • Customers who are less likely to react to competitor promotions.
  • Customers who are more likely to give you a chance to compete.
  • Customers who are more likely to keep buying from you regardless of the competition.

It’s only normal that most customers like to feel recognised and rewarded for their loyalty.  One of the simplest, but most effective ways, to build and recognise loyalty is to implement a customer loyalty programme.

Customers also want to be respected.  It’s vital to respect customers (not just show respect, but demonstrate it!) and build trust.

Developing trust with your customers is one of the single most important aspects of running a small business. If customers trust you, it becomes much easier to build loyalty and sell to them.

Of course the opposite is true – if you do something that destroys that trust, it’s very difficult to win it back.

You can earn customer trust by delivering outstanding service (delight the customer), going the extra mile if necessary (even if it costs you extra time) and doing what you say you will (even if you have changed your mind) – delivering on promises!

Active listening is also very important.  Don’t tune out customers’ concerns, listen and act on customer feedback.

Keep in touch with your loyal customers – and new customers for that matter, turn new customers into loyal customers!

Consider surveying your customers, not only on their customer satisfaction with your business/service, but on their needs.  It will provide valuable insight and may even enable you to alter your product/service offerings to better align with their needs.

Remember to share your plans with your team and ensure they understand your goals (and their goals!) and methods for building customer loyalty, as you don’t want them to inadvertently undo any hard work.

Keep in mind… Satisfied, loyal customers form the best business strategy.

What do you think?

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Julian Smith

Julian Smith

Julian Smith is responsible for MYOB’s corporate affairs, government and public relations in Australia and New Zealand and is also New Zealand general manager. The qualified lawyer has spent much of his career at large multinationals in a range of senior legal, sales, marketing and customer management roles. Julian is a regular keynote speaker and business commentator and sits on a number of government and industry boards and advisory panels. Julian can be found on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/JulianTSmith">@JulianTSmith</a> or contacted via email Julian.smith@myob.com

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