Even though most of us understand what it is and why loyalty is important, there are still many companies that don’t succeed in getting the best out of their customers. Loyal customers can be the definitive difference between success and failure for your company – not only do they spend more money in your store than the average customer, they will also recommend your company to their network of friends and family and become a marketing channel by themselves. It will always be cheaper and more profitable to have loyal customers than first-time visitors, and in fact research claims that loyal customers, throughout their lifetime, can earn your company 10 times more. We’ve made a list of a few easy tips to keep in mind when dealing with your customers.
”Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless” – Jeffret Gitomer
1. Know your customers!
If you don’t know who your customers are, you will never be able to provide the value they require to become loyal customers. Not greeting a returning customer with the recognition they expect will be a missed opportunity to make them feel valued. We all know the feeling – it sucks when someone doesn’t remember your name, and you feel like you haven’t made an impression. If you don’t learn to appreciate these customers, your competitors will happily take over. Statistics show that only about 4% of your customers will actually tell you why they are upset – the rest switch companies without telling you, and are lost. This should illustrate how important it is to listen to the needs of your customers.
Make use of a database. Depending on the type of business you run, there are countless ways to do so. Some companies can make use of CRM (Customer Relationshop Management) tools that keep track of your customers sales data, others can benefits from a modern POS (Point Of Sale) system that gives access to sales data right at your fingertips. For example, large hotel chains will know exactly when you last visited, what you purchased, your room preferences and your allergies, thus allowing them to personalize your experience and creating more value than initially provided by the hotel room.
”Make a customer, not a sale” – Katherine Barchetti
2. Spoil your customers and give them a REASON to be loyal!
Once you know who your customers are and have access to contact information and sales data, you can improve the customer experience in countless ways. Create targeted campaigns for those customers that have visited your business several times, give a discount on the 10th visit or send them important information directly. There is most likely 100 companies who can do almost the same as you do, so make sure to do something your competitors don’t and put it in the extra effort. Is the customer on your website for the first time? Offer them free delivery of their purchase. Did someone buy a pair of shoes that didn’t live up to expectations? Give them a pair of shoelaces for free. While these all represent costs for your business, they should rather be regarded as an investment in the future. It is very easy to forget to go the extra mile when sales and business today revolves around speed and efficiency, but the small things are what can set your business apart from the rest. It is important to motivate the customer to keep coming back to YOUR store. The ’extra mile’ is very different depending on the business you operate and the type of customers you have. For some, a smile might be enough whereas others appreciate status and benefits (for example, bonus cards and airline memberships). Try and put yourself in your customers shoes and think about what they would appreciate.
Remember that loyal and satisfied customers will recommend your business to their friends and network, so even though you spent money on a free cup of coffee, the 4 friends they bring next time will quickly make up for the cost. Happy customers are without a doubt your most efficient and cheap form of advertising you can get for your business. In a world where marketing and paid advertisements have gotten out of control, personal experiences and recommendations are becoming increasingly valuable.
3. Technology is important, but service is more important
Technological innovations and new, smart solutions have opened the door for new communication channels and with them, the opportunity to create customer loyalty. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that technology is simply a tool, and one that is easy to hide behind. As has always been the case, a good customer experience is dependant on good service and the value you provide for your customers. Technological advancements, like modern, smart POS systems that give you immediate access to data, only make it easier to provide good service – they don’t create results and loyal customers in themselves, unless you learn how to use them properly. Take advantage of the data available to you, but don’t assume the job is done just by recording data in itself.
”If you make a sale, you can make a living. If you make an investment of time and good service in a customer, you can make a fortune” – Jim Rohn.
4. Train staff and make it EASY to provide good service!
Make sure there is nothing holding your employees back when it comes to providing good service. Avoid overly complicated sales systems and instead use something your staff knows how to use to avoid them standing around and wasting time in front of the cash-register during a sale. Your employees will mostly know how to provide a high level of service, but many are held back by complicated routines and other wasteful activities that don’t add value to the customer experience or simply because they are not given the trust and freedom required to make their own decisions.
It may sound simple, but in order to create a bond with your customer, your employees must be able to act like human beings and have their personality shine through. For this to happen, they must be allowed to make decisions based on the needs and demands of the individual customer rather than operate based on a fixed routine. We are all customers at some point, and most employees are perfectly able to understand the problems your customers are facing. With a greater understanding, they are also able to serve the customer better. A tablet POS is both faster and cheaper than traditional POS systems, and are also mobile and can be moved around so you can meet your customers on their terms rather than always at a fixed counter. In the end, it comes down to freeing up your employees time so they in turn can spend their time creating a memorable customer experience.
Unfortunately it is not rare today to see marketing take the center stage while service is forgotten at the waist side. Yes, it is extremely important to market yourself and get customers through the front door, but it is the service, support and overall customer experience that makes them come back for another visit. According to Accenture, 83% of customers who switched to a competitor feel that better support was a decisive factor in their decision. Stop viewing service as a cost, and start seeing it as an investment in the future.