How to create loyal customers
How to Build Customer Loyalty
Running a business is tough: there are so many things you have to manage, but one of the most important things to work at is building customer loyalty. Because most business comes from returning customers (80% of business is said to come from just 20% of customers), you need to learn not just how to draw people in but how to keep them coming back.The best way to do that is to make sure that you're giving your customers what they want, treating them well, and making them happy. If you can do this, you'll have created a loyal customer base. Easier said than done, right? Read on for some helpful advice on how to build customer loyalty for your business.
Providing Excellent Customer Service
Aim for a "small business" feel.Consumers tend to think that small businesses provide superior customer service. They think the service is better and that the small-business owner knows and understands both the business and the consumer better.
- Make sure you are regularly present and actively engaged in the day-to-day operations of your business, even if you also need to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Customers appreciate being able to place a face with the business.
- Make it clear to your customers that everyone who works for you is fully knowledgeable about your products or services. Train your employees to anticipate your customers' needs.
- For example, if you own a book store, designate individual employees as “experts” in various areas: Sam may be the science expert, Pat the literature expert, etc. Their name-tags can reflect this, and customers will soon learn whom to ask for when seeking help.
Create a “home-like” experience.Create an environment that your customer wants to visit, where they feel comfortable—a home away from home.
- For example, you may have loved visiting Grandma's house when you were younger, because she baked your favorite cookies, knew what time "your" program was on TV, and knit you a special, cozy blanket. Try to find ways to re-create this welcoming, relaxing environment for your customers.
- For example, if you own a used-book store, consider re-purposing an area of the store to become the “reading corner” with comfortable sofas and chairs. Offer free homemade cookies for special events like storytime or book-club meetings.
Focus on your customers.As busy as you are managing the business, your customers will respond well when they realize that you recognize them and know who they are.
- For example, greet customers you recognize by name: “Ms. Ford, it's so nice to see you again!”
Listen to your customers.While you should be receptive to your customers' complaints and concerns, be alert for their compliments, too.
- For example, if customers have raved about the new chocolate pastry you put on the menu at your restaurant, continue offering it (which they'll appreciate), and you might create a new dessert based on a similar flavor profile.
Tell your customers how you are working for them.The customer is nearly always on your mind, but you're probably rarely on theirs. It's not bragging to promote your accomplishments and let customers know what you're doing for them; rather, it makes good business sense!Send updates via a newsletter, on your website, or through Twitter. Consider making personal phone calls, too.
- For example, you can call a customer to let her know that her special book order is on its way, two days ahead of schedule.
- You could email your customers announcing a new line of gluten-free cookies that you've created in response to their requests.
Embrace the written word.For loyal customers you may consider sending handwritten notes or holiday cards in which you thank them for their business and loyalty.
- You could also send your best customers notes once in a while. For example, if you're a caterer and have worked for a family before, you could send something like this: “Dear Martinez Family, I saw that your daughter is graduating with honors from college — congratulations! Let us know if you need help arranging a celebration.”
Make follow-up calls.Your customers will most likely be impressed with your level of service and commitment if you make it a priority to follow through. Call your customers to see if the service they received was as expected and whether they were satisfied with their purchase.
- You can use this method to solicit suggestions for improvement, and you may be able to get references for additional business at the same time. Ask the customer if they'd be willing to refer their friends and family to your services.
Be reliable.In order to foster loyalty in your customers, do everything you can to earn a reputation for doing exactly what you say you will.
- For example, you (and your employees) should work hard at being on time for appointments, ship deliveries promptly and accurately, and offer reliable cost and schedule estimates.
Keep your word.Your customers will notice that you honor your commitments and promises and that you observe your business's policies concerning returns and warranties.
- Word will spread if you or your employees fail to meet customers' expectations or if you go back on your word or your store policy. Not only might you lose your established customers, you will have a more difficult time expanding your customer base.
Be flexible (within reason).You may have a strict no-returns policy, and you may not return deposits for your catering business. However, you should know when it's in your long-term best interests to bend your rules.
- For example, if the Martinez family has hired you to cater their family reunions for the last few years but need to cancel their daughter's graduation party, you should give serious thought to returning their deposit in order to retain their future business.
Give your best customers gifts.See if you can find room in your budget for a small discretionary fund to be used to send your most loyal customers an occasional gift or token of your appreciation. You don't have to spend a lot to make an impression.
- For example, if you run a restaurant and the Browns have been Friday night regulars for years, consider buying a special floral arrangement for their anniversary dinner that they can take home with them.
- Keep in mind that it's common for customers to tell others about their experiences with business, both badandgood.The Browns will be likely to tell their friends about how well they are treated at your place.
Handling Problems and Complaints
Be accessible.Your customers need to know how to get in touch with you. They will be more likely to remain loyal customers if they believe that you are willing to communicate directly with them.
- Make it easy for your customers to find your contact information: print it on your receipts, and make it easy to find on your website.
Provide customers with access to you by computer and/or phone for the resolution of minor issues.Depending on the complexity of the problem, consumers tend to have different preferences when it comes to handling problems with a business.
- For example, a lot of customers seem to prefer being able to use email or the company's website for small issues like searching for a product. They often prefer this to being forced to talk on the phone or travel to a business location and meet with an employee.
Make sure that your customers have someone with whom to speak.In more difficult situations (such as disputing a charge) many customers become frustrated with automated systems and want to talk to a real person.
- Make sure that if your customers call your business, they can quickly connect with a live person. If they come into the store, be certain that they are immediately directed to the person who can handle their concern.
Train your employees to be responsive and considerate.It's important that you and your employees be consistently courteous to your customers, and it's especially vital that they are treated with respect when they bring their concerns or complaints to your attention.
- The biggest gripes that consumers have that would lead them to leave you for another brand or service are rude and unresponsive customer-service representatives and being shuffled among employees without resolution of the issue.
Resolve problems quickly and efficiently.While you strive to run a smooth operation and do your best to anticipate your customers' needs, it's inevitable that there will be problems you'll have to address. When a problem is brought to your attention, it's important that you resolve it as soon as possible.Let the customer know that it's your immediate priority.
- For example, perhaps the wrong dishwasher model was delivered and installed at the Chen household on Friday. Reassure them that you'll personally oversee correction of the problem and that it will be handled on Saturday, even if your crew normally doesn't work on weekends.
Offering Rewards and Incentives
Use rewards and incentives programs.Customers love a good deal, and you may be able to build customer loyalty by offering gift cards, reward cards, coupons, frequent-shopper points, or discounts for referrals. All of these will give your customers incentive to continue patronizing your business.
- Consider offering incentives especially during slower seasons or to promote a new product or service.
Advertise the program.It's important that your customers (and potential customers) know about your incentives and rewards. Include them in your advertising strategy and budget.
- For example, if you want to start a rewards program at your bakery, advertise it on your website, display fliers explaining the program in easy-to-see places in the store, and have your employees remind patrons about the program.
Make the incentives easy for the customer to use.The point of an incentives program is to encourage customers to conduct repeat business with you and to attract new customers as well. If your program is complicated or has lots of restrictions, you won't see the results you were hoping for.
- Customers will be less likely to use your incentives program if they have to fill out long forms or give out too much personal information.
- You'll probably have better luck with the rewards program at your bakery, for example, if you just pass out cards that customers can keep in their wallets.
Give the customers a jump-start on the incentives program.Some business experts recommend using “artificial advancement,” which lets the customer feel s/he is making real progress in earning benefits.
- For example, you can have a “buy eight pastries, get one free” card at your bakery. Then, instead of printing cards with eight places for stamps, print cards with ten spaces, and have the first two already stamped.
- If you do this, it's more likely that customers will participate in and complete the program, which means that you will sell more pastries!
Create different levels of rewards.Customers seem to prefer and participate more often in rewards programs that feature multiple levels. They seem to like it if there are levels "below" them.
- For example, they like finding themselves on the "gold" or "platinum" level where they might envision better rewards.
Using Technology to Build Customer Loyalty
Create a web presence for your business.Customers expect businesses to have websites. You can use this to your advantage—not only to increase business but also to foster customer loyalty. Your website can be a great platform for you to communicate with your customers.
- On a website you can let your customers know what you've been doing for them, promote sales and specials, enable customers to sign up for rewards programs, and provide people a way to voice their concerns and offer their compliments.
Use other social media tools to build customer loyalty.Besides having a website you might create a Facebook account and/or a Twitter account for your business. You can post announcements and alerts about your business. Monitor your site(s) for customer feedback.
- How do your customers respond to your postings and announcements? Are any customers writing positive reviews, or are they defending you against negative comments?
- Besides being able to learn more about your customers and what they want, you can send the most loyal customers personalized thank-you's through social media. Consider sending them discounts or coupons for their loyalty.
Give your customers what they want online.People often use social media to follow businesses, usually in order to find discounts and special deals.
- Use these tools to your advantage by giving your customers exactly what they want, which will make them more likely to remain loyal to you and your brand.
- Make sure that your website and social media platforms do more than just explain what your services are and where you are located. For example, if you have a big sale planned, announce it prominently on your website.
Use web analytics to see what customers really want.If you use a web-analytics program on your website, you can learn important information about what your customers have shopped for, searched for, or browsed in the past, as well as learn what they're looking for now.
- This can help you give your customers what they actually want as opposed to what you think they want. Obviously this will further your quest for customer loyalty.
Being Excellent at What You Do
Make your product or service as perfect as possible.No matter how much your customers may like you, you won't be able to establish loyalty if you provide them with an inferior product or service.
- Use high-quality ingredients or parts and production that is not rushed or shoddy. Don't let your employees take short-cuts that would result in short-changing your customers.
Set reasonable prices.While many consumers report that they're willing to pay more for superior customer service, quite a lot of them expect stellar service regardless of price.
- Lots of consumers are strapped for cash, and can't afford to pay more even if you're willing to go above and beyond.
- This means there's a limit to how high you can set prices even if you excel at customer service.
Research price trends in your industry.Try to balance your profit margin with the limits of your customer's budgets. Keep current with price fluctuations across your industry, and pay attention to your main competitors.
- For example, if you run a local flower shop, investigate prices at other brick-and-mortar stores in your town. See whether any online florists deliver in your area and if you can compete with their prices.
Make your business a good place to work.If your employees are dejected or demoralized, customers will notice and may be less inclined to give you repeat business.
- If your employees respect you and enjoy working for you, they will be more dedicated to providing good customer service.
- Promote a "trickle down" effect, where happy employees make happy customers.
QuestionWhat if I don't have a business?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis is not for people who do not have a business. If you don't have a business, then you don't need to worry about building up customer loyalty.Thanks!
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Video: Sales Training: 3 Keys to Build Customer Loyalty | Brian Tracy
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