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Customer Loyalty or Where Did All the Customers Go?

Mar 2, 2008
We keep reading that there is no more loyalty -- customer or otherwise. The worker complains the employer will no longer guarantee job security. The employer claims he trains employees so well they start their own businesses and become the competition. The manufacturer claims the consumer buys only on price. The consumer says they would buy brand but the value is not there.

There is a dynamic missing in each of the above statements. The dynamic only goes in one direction.

To build a relationship - especially a strong one involving loyalty - is a two way street. If your business has few loyal customers or clients then you will have few repeat buyers. Most businesses either make it or break it with repeat customers.

That pizza company calling you for a phone survey is not interested so much in the ten bucks you spent last week as the $7000 you will spend in the next 25 years.
So it makes sense that if your business has few loyal customers you need to figure out a way to not only get them but keep them. Simple.

The way to do that is to totally focus on the customer; not just in the sales and marketing meetings. But in everything you do. Inside out. When you look outside first to your market and customer base and then change the way your business operates to meet those market demands you are reengineering processes.

With this refocus employees must be hired who understand the importance of customer loyalty. To keep them motivated incentive plans should reward employees for retaining regular customers as well as gaining new ones.

Tools and Training allow skilled employees to resolve customer complaints very quickly. Most consumers understand that no business can always be perfect. By handling problems quickly and effectively your customers understand very clearly your commitment to them.

Attitude must be honed with other skills. Positive, upbeat employees are liked then trusted then bought from. You cannot expect depressed employees to keep customers happy.

Measure and survey what your customers do, say and pay for. If your product/service is higher priced follow up regularly to insure satisfaction. The very act of following up strengthens long term relationships.

Establish personal relationships with your customers. This distinguishes you from the competition and makes it harder for your customer to 'jump ship'. Allow employees to be real people -- let their personalities come through to establish a bond.

Canned 'smiling service' is actually perceived as insincere and contrived. Research has shown we actually use different facial muscles in a genuine smile than in a faked one. Strive to be genuine.

Exceed those customer expectations and they will remember you each and every time they need your product or service. Remember that if you cannot distinguish yourself they will buy on price alone.

Updated problem solving and decision making skills are a must. Employees must not be afraid to make a tough decision. Customers have a sense that if an employee is truly trusted by the company to resolve a concern then the company will make it right if that decision turns out to be a mistake.

The customer is a fickle animal. We may not be impressed when the cashier calls us by our last name after running the credit card through the machine. We may even get to the point where we can expect that. What surprises us is that which goes beyond our sense of expectation.

When someone in a business context does something for us we do not expect we just stand there with our jaws dropped. We have been transformed by an experience which transcends the business simplicity of supply and demand. We have been zapped by a thunderbolt and may never be the same.

Your business or employer may be very good at customer focus. If so you may develop the most valuable of all business assets 'the loyal customer'. If you don't have that loyal customer feeling then maybe you are focusing too much on self-introspection.

Your business may in time discover that you really aren't all that bad from an internal view. But customers are external. And maybe the time is right for shifting the focus where it really needs to be.

Maybe you need to 'reengineer' or reorganize. Or maybe just tweak your strategy here and there. But whatever you do focus on your customer to gain their loyalty.
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of Jack D. Deal Business Consulting. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/business and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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