How important is customer loyalty to your business? One of the biggest strengths any company can posses is the ability to retain loyal customers. When your clientele is out there promoting your company with word-of-mouth marketing, and they feel disgust whenever viewing an ad from your competitor, you’ve successfully driven the value of your brand deep into their hearts. So how can YOU gain customer loyalty?
For small business, when you don’t have brand recognition, you’re easily forgotten. You don’t have customer loyalty yet. The process begins with customer service.
Start by delivering stellar customer service that goes above and beyond what’s expected. Do this with a carefully calculated, strategic approach. Then you’ll begin to build customer loyalty. I’ll break down the bad, and then the good elements of customer service. Then I’ll show you how to bring the best customer experience to your clients so you may gain real customer loyalty.
Honesty and integrity
During the first years of my professional life, having run some side businesses while working full-time, I had always known the most important factor for success was to implement great customer service. Honesty goes hand-in-hand with customer service and was ingrained in me from childhood. Honesty and integrity stand at the top of a good customer service implementation – paramount for building customer loyalty.
Always treat your customers with integrity. Their trust will serve you well and provide good long-term relationship potential. As the saying goes – you can fool most of the people some of the time, but you can only fool some of the people most of the time. That’s why “Fly-by-night” operations need to fly. They’ve fooled many of the people briefly. They know they must flee to avoid being called-out on their dishonesty.
Be ethical in all you do. You’ll be able to cater to most everyone in your target market, all of the time.
Customer service may start with honesty and integrity, but there is much more to it. You may have heard the saying “the customer is always right.” This statement, although too simplistic in my opinion, delivers the right idea. When you put into practice the concept that customer satisfaction is of the highest importance, it’ll permeate how you do business. You’ll begin to see customer loyalty building as your customer confidence grows.
Tap into your empathy for others. Feel and understand the point of view of your target market. If you don’t have empathy, learn about it. Practice it. More customers will be drawn to you when you show empathy toward them.
You must convince your customers to stick with you. You need them to buy more from you in the future. Your customers must spread good tidings about you and your company. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool which reflects customer loyalty.
Habits that ruin customer loyalty
There are a multitude of good customer service habits which provide good customer experiences. Incorporating these will truly build customer loyalty. But first, the bad habits must be addressed.
Root out bad habits
Prior to adding more good habits, you need to root out the bad ones. They ruin customer loyalty. By simply eliminating a company’s bad customer service habits, a failing company can be turned around. Customer-loss can be halted. New customer acquisition and gains in customer loyalty can begin again.
Bad memories stick
Bad customer experiences cause bad memories, especially those created by stress. Those are very hard for your customers to forget. And there’s a scientific reason for this.
It’s been determined that the stress hormone Norepinephrine, which manipulates a chemical receptor in the brain called GluR1may, may cause the brain to remember bad events as a defense to ensure future avoidance of a threat. These findings are referenced on WebMD and can be read in the article Why Bad Memories Stick.
You don’t want your company to be seen as a threat in the brains of your customers! That type of memory can be so deeply ingrained in your customer’s mind that it makes it nearly impossible to bring them back. Stop creating bad memories in your customer’s brains NOW, before it’s too late!
Don’t ruin customer loyalty
Remember, the goal is to BUILD customer loyalty, not ruin it…
10 bad customer service habits which ruin customer loyalty
1. New customer preferential treatment
Treating new customers better than your retained, loyal, long-term customers makes no sense at all. Especially in today’s small business marketplace, where customer loyalty is so valuable. Providing incentives like discounts to attract new customers may really bring them in for sure. You should do this, and often.
Existing customers have a higher profit margin. The price of customer acquisition has already been paid for them. You continue to make profit from their repeat business, so spend more on them. ALWAYS surprise them with the same incentives you provide new customers…they may not even know what you offer new customers, so this will be a pleasant surprise. It will increase customer loyalty greatly.
2. Breaking your word or late delivery
This touches on the honesty aspect of customer service. Customer loyalty comes from trust and this will break that trust. Most people begin to stress when an expectation set by a promise from a company has not been delivered on-time. Every minute spent waiting for that expectation to arrive causes that trust to diminish. If what was expected doesn’t arrive at all, after they wait for who knows how long, a strong sense of betrayal will occur. This type of dishonesty will cause dissent among your customers and ruin any existing customer loyalty.
3. Surprise expenses and hidden fees
Lack of transparency throughout all of your company’s processes, especially the billing process, causes diminished trust and loyalty and even customer loss. Once, when I purchased a truck at a local car dealership, they added an $800 fee which made no sense. I believe they did it because I negotiated the price way down. That caused their commission to be lower. The final paperwork had a multitude of fees like taxes, registration, dealer fee, and others. Hidden in there was that $800 fee. I discovered (uncovered) that this fee had no significance.
To that dealership, at that moment, losing the additional commission was too devastating. They were willing to risk losing a repeat customer over this. Customer loyalty was obviously far from their minds.
4. Taking customers for granted
You may have a large, steady stream of new customers because of your great reputation and effective marketing campaign. Also, you may have strong customer loyalty from your client base which you’ve built up over the years. Continue to treat them well. It may be human nature to become complacent over time, but don’t let that happen. Existing customer loyalty is like a commodity which increases in value.
Knowing that complacency can happen, be sure to put preventative measures in place to keep it from ever occurring in the future. Ensure the level of customer service you provide is high and that it improves year after year.
Long-term customer loyalty is so important to any business…so try something like this: Each year a customer stays with you, give them a gift, and increases the size of the gift each year. It would be hard to beat the kind of customer loyalty this type of action will provide. Never allow your level of customer service to diminish. Keep it fresh, and treat all of your customers as if they mean the world to you. If you don’t, your world will certainly collapse around you as you lose their customer loyalty and they migrate to your competitors.
5. Failing to go above and beyond
You should know, good customer service is EXPECTED by the public. This is especially true for small businesses. To stand above, and to stay ahead of your competition, go above and beyond your customer’s expectations. Spend some time be creative. Get ideas from Google searches and come up with a plan for implementing customer service that will surprise and impress your customers. Exceeding their expectations will certainly build customer loyalty.
6. Unreturned calls, emails, or texts
Nobody likes to feel insignificant. This bad habit will insure that your customers feel like they don’t matter to you at all. Being busy is a good thing, but put measures in place to ensure your customers concerns are answered promptly. They do matter, so get back to them quickly! Show them how much you car about customer loyalty.
7. Lack of attentiveness
Have you ever been at a store, had a question, and was unable to get the attention of one of the workers? Or, after choosing your items, you’ve gone to pay for them and nobody was there to help you? Be sure to not make your customers feel this way. They may never return!
8. Mistakes made without apologies
First rule: Don’t make mistakes. They make you look bad. Of course, everybody makes mistakes, so it will eventually happen. Believe it or not, a good recovery from a mistake can have an even better positive impact on a customer than the type of impact they receive from a fast, flawless transaction. Just ensure mistakes normally never happen. Complete transparency about the mistake, a good humble attitude, a sincere apology, and a token of appreciation for the customer who was the victim of your mistake will make it right. Then it will cement customer loyalty and provide word-of-mouth marketing from that customer.
Read the following fictional scenario and decide if you’d be inclined to buy a car from this dealership:
“I bought a new car from that dealership and they almost charged me an additional, hidden 800 bucks. When I sat down to sign the papers, the manager brought me a new set of papers to replace the ones I had. The new papers had a correction, removing the fee that should not have been there. They had a review process in place to catch things like that. It was discovered that their sales person put it in there to make a bigger commission. They fired the sales person on-the-spot, and then, as a token of their appreciation for my dismay, they removed the dealer fee as well.”
They seem to understand the importance of customer loyalty. I think I’d be inclined to buy a car from them in the future, wouldn’t you?
Treat your customers the way you would treat a prospective employer. The rule-of-thumb for job interviews is to show up 10 minutes early. Do this for your customers as well. Being late to appointments generates poor sentiment while the customer is waiting. Then, when you do arrive, they already think negatively of you.
When you show up before them, they’ll feel important, and they’ll be responsive to you. When your customers feel important, your customer loyalty will grow another notch. Don’t be tardy!
10. Inconsistent cross-channel customer experience
Since customers usually deal with multiple points of contact at companies, consistency is very important. If a customer service agent tells you one thing, but a billing person tells you another, you’ll certainly feel stressed and confused. This kind of experience causes customers to look elsewhere, and then migrate to your competitors. It prevents customer loyalty.
Having a consistent company theme throughout your organization causes your customers to become accustomed to the environment you convey to them from all points of contact at your company. Familiarity can be achieved from your customers. That is very powerful! When familiarity is layered onto great customer service , customer loyalty will grow by leaps and bounds.
Habits that build customer loyalty
To the customer, your company is usually only as good as the last time you had contact with them. Small businesses, not having universal brand recognition or existing customer loyalty must provide stellar customer service along with a stellar product. You must stay on top of the customers mind. Good memories don’t stick as well as bad ones do. This provides an on-going challenge – so keep the good memories flowing to your customers!
Hopefully, the bad habits that ruin customer loyalty have been completely eliminated. That’s the most important step to providing good customer service. You must remove the weeds before planting new seeds, right?
There’s a strong bond that can be achieved with your customers when you provide them with repeated good memories…customer loyalty. Customer confidence comes from the trust you establish with them, but customer loyalty is the bond that keeps them coming back. Use the examples below to provide the kind of customer service that demands customer loyalty every time.
10 examples of good customer service habits to build customer loyalty
1. Exceed customer expectations
After you implement every possible element into the customer service you provide to meet customer expectations, start implementing things that surprise and delight your customers. They already expect great customer service, so impress them by going above and beyond.
Make a point to understand how your customers ACTUALLY feel through creative ways to get honest feedback. They may smile and look happy, but then they’ll turn on you later. Honest feedback helps you achieve customer service that exceeds expectations. It provides you a map to customer loyalty.
2. Review and adjust all processes across the company
This activity is called cross-channel customer service management. It can be one of the most difficult challenges because of its complexity. Don’t be intimidated by this though, as the payoff in customer loyalty is HUGE with this one. There are some good tools you can use to assist with this effort, but data analysis and interpretation will be the key to success here.
Use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools to gather useful data points about your customers regarding their experiences when interacting with your company. The leading CRM provider is Salesforce, and they provide some well-rounded solutions to gather customer data. For tracking the customer service metrics, you can use tools like Net Promoter Score or Client Heartbeat. The data analysis and interpretation can be difficult, but will have a large payoff in customer loyalty when executed carefully.
3. Incorporate customer feedback based changes often
Getting customer feedback is important, but what impresses customers the most are the improvements you make based on their feedback. Customer loyalty grows when they see these improvements. So keep a system in place which includes periodic feedback review, feedback data tracking, and data analysis. This will be based on probability distribution and will show what areas most customers are concerned about. With these results, you can identify and prioritize what changes need to be made.
Feedback forms via email work well as long as you provide fast follow-ups. Wording in the feedback form must really convey the importance of the feedback. You want your customers to feel that this feedback is important to your company. Show them that changes will actually be made based on their feedback.
Usability tests are one of the best forms of gathering customer feedback. They are more involved than feedback forms. A deep level of feedback may be gleaned from them. They go beyond what feedback the customer can normally provide simply by thinking about it. Provided is and opportunity for the customer to try your product or service and enter their feedback while being engaged with your company. A carefully crafted usability test can reveal many meaningful ways to improve both your products and your customer service.
4. Tailor customer service formulas for each customer group
Based on factors like age, level of education, and product usage frequency, creatively develop ways to tailor the customer service you provide to each group. To gain customer loyalty, do the following:
- Make it hip for the young crowd
- Make it eloquent for the scholarly crowd
This will allow you to cater to a larger audience, which includes more demographics.
5. Tailor customer service formulas for each customer
Using CRM tools, which gather customer data, modify your customer service formulas for specific customers. Do this when you have all customer data on file. This allows you to provide a customer experience that is unexpected…personal. Combined with a level of customer service that exceeds expectations, this provides you with a customer that considers your company to be like a friend. Now that’s customer loyalty!
6. Use Service Level agreements to establish expectations
SLA‘s provides actual metrics that can be used as a measuring stick when striving to exceed customer expectations. This should be put in writing at the time of agreement. When you set the level of expected customer service, you establish a defined point to beat…set the bar. This provides a goal to beat!
7. Stay in-touch with your customers by talking with them
Find out what your costumers like and dislike, and whether they still purchase from your competitors and why. Try randomly selecting a sample of existing customers and offer an incentive to schedule a time to sit down and chat about your products and services. Another idea is to use feedback cards that work like coupons. After they are filled out completely, they may be used for a discount. Also, you may consider an informal chat with them, but be a very good listener! When you connect with your customers, you build customer loyalty by default.
8. Provide personalized communications
Using emails from a personal account, for instance, will really make the customer feel friendly toward your company. Always use their name in all communications, and be sure to quickly follow-up with them whenever contact is made. Show them you care about them as a person. Also, show them how much you appreciate their business. Greeting cards on special occasions always add a nice touch especially if one is sent on their birthday.
9. Keep your staff excited
Be a motivational speaker for your company! Your staff will be more responsive to you and your customers. When your customer gets the feeling that you and your staff are excited about what your company has to offer, that excitement will spill over…especially when it’s consistent across all points of contact with your company. Now there’s a recipe for building customer loyalty!
10. Under-promise and over-deliver
This philosophy will definitely help ensure you exceed your customer’s expectations. Be careful with this one, as you need to always be concerned about your competitors, and what they are promising. Just be sure to really understand what you can deliver and then be sure to set their expectations just below that level so you can end up beating the expectation every time.
Effective customer service builds customer loyalty
The longer a customer stays with you, the greater the profits become from that customer. This is because the initial cost of customer acquisition gets averaged out over the entire customer retention period. Understanding the deeper, more hidden mathematical principles like this makes quite a difference in the long run. It’s a second-order affect, which is like a large piggy bank. When you stuff quarters in it often, the coins add up. Before you know it, thinking long-term of course, you’ll have hundreds of dollars in there. Customer loyalty is like having many piggy banks like this in place. Having customer loyalty increases your profit margin over time, without adjusting any other factor.
Effective customer service from all angles and at levels that exceed customer expectations will really cultivate customer loyalty and they’ll stick with you. These customers are people. Build good relationships with them to develop customer loyalty to you and your company. Continue building their trust as well, as customer confidence also develops customer loyalty.
The majority of customers stop using companies due to poor customer service. Product problems and competitor offerings come in at a distant second and third place, statistically. Make customer service a top priority at your company and you will retain more customers longer. You’ll gain customer loyalty and you’ll feel good about yourself too!
Thank you for reading:
How to Gain Customer Loyalty
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