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In order for any business to thrive, that business must be engaged in the task of building customer loyalty. A solid customer base provides one of the most powerful assets that any company can possess, both in terms of revenue generation and as a public relations and sales promotion resource. While there are many different programs and approaches to building customer loyalty, there are a few essential principles that provide a solid foundation for any attempt to win and keep customers.
One of the key tips for building customer loyalty is to communicate with the client. This begins with that first contact made by the sales representative, and follows all the way through to interactions with customer service professionals once that prospect becomes a client. Communication involves more than simply hearing the words coming out of the customer’s mouth; it involves listening closely to the intent and purpose behind those words, taking the time to ask clarifying questions so the possibility of misunderstandings are minimizes, and ultimately responding to the customer in a manner that he or she finds satisfying and rewarding. Jumping to conclusions about what the customer needs or conveying that the customer is failing to understand is a sure way to undermine loyalty. Taking the time to really communicate builds rapport and increases the chances of maintaining the relationship, even if some issue has caused the customer concern.
As part of the customer service effort, building customer loyalty requires maintaining a well-trained and consistent customer support team. There should be as little turnover in the team members as possible. Each one should be well-versed in company products, policies, and procedures. Customers tend to like consistency, especially when it comes to asking questions or voicing concerns. They want the same answer to the same question each time, not a variety of answers that may or may not be grounded in fact.
While not everyone believes that customer incentives are key to building customer loyalty, the fact is that providing a customer with reasons to keep coming back is extremely important. Incentives should not be narrowly interpreted as offering discounts or sending the customer some sort of token of appreciation from time to time, although these are certainly effective in the right situations. Incentives can also be in the form of anticipating an upcoming need of the client, and proactively approaching that client with a solution. By saving the customer time and possibly money by having a solution already in place, the business minimizes the chances that the client will feel the need to seek a solution elsewhere.
Flexibility is also important when it comes to building customer loyalty. The ability to cut through standard procedures when a customer has an emergency situation and needs support now rather than later can cement the relationship in ways that other strategies can never accomplish. Customer perceptions that businesses want their clients to be successful, and will do whatever it takes to support them in that effort, means a great deal when unusual circumstances arise on the spur of the moment.
Building customer loyalty is a combination of being ethical, responsive, reliable, and providing quality support at all times. Even when the need to handle customer complaints arises, creating an environment where the provider and the customer are teamed together to resolve the issue in a manner that is fast, secure, and agreeable to the client will go a long way toward defusing tension. As a result, the customer chooses to keep the relationship alive, and the company benefits from that relationship for a long time.