The difference between owning a business and having a successful business boils down to one key concept that is so important, I can’t talk about it enough: customer loyalty. It’s not enough to just get someone to walk through your doors or visit your website once; to have a successful business, you need that customer to keep coming back, purchase multiple products/services and ultimately, tell others about you too. So, how do you create that level of customer loyalty in your own business? Here are a few tips to get you headed in the right direction:
(1) Culture is Key
What do companies like Harley Davidson, Apple and Fender all have in common? They all have strong, unique identities tied to their businesses that extend beyond the type of products or services that they sell. And people will exclusively purchase their products (and repeatedly purchase their products!) in large part because they want to be a part of that culture. So, to re-create some of that uber-customer loyalty in your own business, think about the type of customer that would purchase your products/services and how you can create a cultural identity that would appeal to that specific customer. For example, you can host live events, special offers or online forum communities targeted towards the sensibilities of your ideal customer base. That will really help foster a sense of community and loyalty towards your business.
(2) Always Over-deliver
We’ve all heard the phrase “Showing up is half the battle”. And while that may be true with regard to making a single sale, to generate real customer loyalty for your business, you’ll have to do more than just show up. Things like promptly returning phone calls/emails, delivering on your promises and meeting deadlines may seem simple, but by just doing those little things, you can separate your business from a lot of the others. But, take it a step further and “over-deliver”. This can be done with genuine, non-business related follow-ups, thoughtful referrals, congratulatory social media shout-outs for your customers’ personal achievements/milestones, hand-written notes and heartfelt gifts, which will really help generate a higher level of trust with your company. This trust is key for creating customer loyalty.
(3) Stand Out with Customer Service
With so much competition at every turn, having exceptional customer service can really help generate loyalty with your customers. Customers have so many choices for everything, so with everything else being equal, customer service is where your business can really stand out. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes; where you would rather shop- the store where the staff is cranky, ignores you or answers your questions with a bad attitude or the store where you are welcomed with a friendly greeting, your name and order are remembered or your questions are happily answered? Even the way that your business handles customer issues or complaints can spark customer loyalty. Going above and beyond expectations when resolving issues can turn an angry customer into a loyal customer for life.
These are just a few ways to help generate customer loyalty for your business. What other tips do you have? Please share them below.
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is currently an on-air contributor for the national cable television station CNBC, the pre-eminent name in business news. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics.
Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011, 2012 & 2013) and has her own action figure.
Regarding customer service, often the internet is missing a fundamental human service. In fact, it is very confusing for customers to make a decision where to shop: online or in a physical store. It is common knowledge that people often go to the store only to learn about a specific product and then make the actual purchase on the internet. Competitive pricing plays a huge role here, but perhaps even more, with the competition that the internet poses, physical stores must offer extraordinary person-to-person service to justify the customer's time to get to the store. The internet cannot fully substitute human help which only can be present in a physical store. Even though, there is a shortage in service and sales persons, the ones hired need to be much more "unbeatably" qualified and trained stronger not only to know their products well, but, as Carol Roth writes, to have the ability to step "into the shoes of the customers". Quality customer service always attracts returning customers—online or onland—by saving them time for shopping elsewhere, and time of course is money.
Another way to Create Customer Loyalty is to position yourself as the "go-to" person. We all know someone who's got a brain full of information on anything and everything you could possibly want or need, beyond what their respective business sells. Need a good [fill in blank]? Ask John. Need to know where to buy [fill in blank]? Ask John. Need to know how to [fill in blank]? Ask John. Being a resource of great information will earn you a good reputation and help keep your name front and center among clients, friends and family.
After I wrote the above comment, I went about taking care of a long "to do" list...I was going in and out of a lot of different businesses, which provoked another thought about how to Create Customer Loyalty: handle customer/client problems with tender loving care. When problems are handled properly (which doesn't always mean fair to the business owner), a customer/client will brag about the "great service" they got from XYZ company.