How to Attract World-Class Customer Loyalty
Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty though is priceless. The trouble is most businesses don’t know the difference. You do though, don’t you?
“Satisfied customers will shop anywhere. Loyal customers will encourage others to buy from you, and FIGHT before they switch!” Jeffrey Gitomer
Clearly the job of the 21st Century business is to attract and develop loyal customers. This article is a guide to some of the key steps to doing that.
Creating Business-to-Customer Loyalty
If you want to attract loyalty from your clients, you have to start by showing loyalty to them. This means talking the chance to go the extra mile when the opportunity arises. If you run a hotel and a guest asks for a full-sized ironing board when you don’t have one, you have two choices:
You can say:
“I’m sorry but we don’t have any but we can supply you with a half-sized board. Would you like that brought up?”
This would be satisfactory. With a little effort, your guest could iron his shirt. Or you could say:
“I’m sorry, but we don’t have any full-sized ironing boards. However, if it’s important to you we can get one brought to you in an hour’s time. Would you like that?”
Then send a member of staff out to Argos or Tesco and buy one for £12. This would demonstrate that you understand that what matters to your customer matters to you too. It tells them that you have their back. That’s a Wow! moment for them. If you’re loyal to them, they’ll be more inclined to be loyal to you.
Honesty Has the Greatest Value
“Do I look fat in this?”
Next time a customer in your clothing shop asks you that, be honest. I’m not suggesting you tell them they’re overweight, but you could say:
“Well I think the blue dress suited you better”
It’s tempting to say whatever they throw on looks amazing, in order to (a) be polite, and (b) make a sale, but this approach is fraught with danger. An honest answer means that they will rely on your advice next time. The less than honest answer is likely to lead to your customer regretting the decision as soon as they are home, or (even worse) looking horrible at that wedding or party they bought the dress for.
Similarly, when discussing conservatories or double glazing with a potential customer ask yourself: does this person need the product and can they honestly afford it? If not, back away. They’ll appreciate it and maybe recommend you to a wealthier friend in dire need of double glazing to block out the noise of the A38 outside their front room.
Offer Online and Offline Support
It’s great to find a company that responds to you when you ring up with a problem or complaint. It’s wonderful to find one that actually answers their mail too. That’s good, satisfactory customer care. But that’s not enough any more. Customers become loyal when they know that you can hear them and respond to their issues out of hours and particularly if you go to where they are.
Luckily, technology makes that possible now without having to be in a hundred places at once. One of the most effective ways a business can use social media is to listen to clients, hear when they have problems and help them immediately. Not all issues have to wait until the next working day. For example, BT has a dedicated but small team of people operating the @BTCare Twitter account. If your line goes dead at 2.00 am, you don’t have to wait until 9.00am to get a response.
If your customers are Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin users, you absolutely must learn how to listen out for and respond to their concerns. You could find that a proactive approach here could create some brand ambassadors for you. The reality is that if you don’t, your competitors will respond to them in your absence.
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.” Shiv Singh
Hire the Right People
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Chicago is ranked as one of the best hotels in the world. They are famous for the loyalty of their clientele. They consider their secret to be hiring staff who delight in taking care of their customers. The hotel goes to enormous lengths when they hire staff. Only 30 percent of applicants make it through the first interview, during which the head of guest services attempts to find people who have “a servant heart.”
The most promising applicants have as many as six interviews. The hotel’s attitude is that you can’t teach people to care; applicants have to have a desire to look after people before they join the staff. It clearly works for the Waldorf Astoria, so next time you’re hiring staff, focus on their attitudes to customer care and service. You can always teach the skills to do their job, but you can’t train them to delight in making other people happy.
The Root of Great Customer Loyalty is Focus
Apple Inc. are well-known as a company that attracts a particularly vocal and loyal customer base. Meet an Apple fanboy and ask them why they buy Apple products and you won’t have to say anything for the next 30 minutes. They will wax lyrical about the quality of the products, the intuitive user interface, the great staff at the Apple Store, the Genius Bar…
You get my point, because we’ve all met them. Some of us are them. So what is it that makes Apple’s customers so loyal? The answer is focus. Apple makes computers. They also make MP3 players. They make external Hard Drives, sell music, phones and tablet devices. Soon, they’ll be selling watches and televisions. Doesn’t sound very focused does it?
But they do have a laser-like focus on one thing: the people that use their products. Apple (at least under Steve Jobs’ direction) have always had a very clear understanding of why they are in business. All of their products and services reflect that. Their most loyal customers share their focus. They understand and share Apple’s “Why”. To attract the same kind of customer loyalty, you need to find and articulate your own “Why”. That, and behaving in a manner that is consistent with it will attract your kind of customer.
The Next Step
A satisfied customer is the minimum we should aim for. A loyal customer though is one who has experienced the Wow! factor and turns into that perfect creature: a customer that creates more customers. Practise the tips in this article and maybe you’ll start to create some.