Loyal customers have to be created. This can take some time and effort but the ROI can be immense. "Not only do loyal customers provide incredibly valuable referrals, they also generate word of mouth that simply can't be bought through advertising," says Roger Hallowell, assistant professor at Harvard Business School.
When a customer buys from you it’s a signal that you have something they want. They’ve responded to the value proposition you offer and there’s immediate potential to create a relationship with lasting value for both of you. How can you do this with the greatest possible number of customers?
Review your value proposition
Your value proposition must appeal to your customers to create and retain their loyalty. Their perceptions of value change, depending on factors such as the economy, fashion trends and even seasonal variations. Regularly review the value proposition you’re offering your customers and relate every element of it to enhancing the relationships you have. An ability and willingness to change is essential to having a marketable value proposition.
Study your customers
Every customer is unique; each will respond to a different set of approaches and satisfactions. You should study your customers closely. Talk to them and get to know them so you can deliver what it is they want. Learn to identify and cater for the customers with long term prospects and then work hard to satisfy their needs. You may find that you could serve them better by modifying your trading hours or by making payment of invoices possible over the Internet. If you really get to know them you’ll find out these things and be able to capitalise on the knowledge.
Create team loyalty
When the team members of a business feel genuine loyalty towards their employer they’re much more inclined to provide customers with personalised service that gets them back. It’s a feeling of familiarity that transmits itself from your people to the people they serve.
Don’t depend on ‘salesmanship’
Today’s customers recognise most sales techniques for what they are and are likely to be put off by them. They want to formulate their own opinions and not be told what they like or don’t like. Adopt a service approach; be ready to assist the customer in making decisions and provide answers to their questions. Treat them as individuals and make it easy for them to buy from you.
Anticipate and overcome problems
Work with your team to eliminate potential sources of customer dissatisfaction, and if you notice any signs that someone’s unhappy be proactive and leap in first with a solution. Make it really easy for them to tell you what’s wrong, and then resolve the issue as quickly as possible. When customers aren't happy with your business they usually don't complain to you – instead, they'll complain to just about everyone else they know. Its better that they tell you first.