Cultivate loyal customers and enjoy sales even when times are tough. Earning a customer’s trust and loyalty takes a lot of time and effort. But it pays off in the long run.
Here are three effective ways to build a formidable base of loyal customers.
1. Make the most effort at keeping the truly loyal customers.
You need to first understand that not all loyal customers are created equal, so you might as well work hard to identify the different types of loyal customers and which ones are necessary to keep.
According to Larry Freed’s book, Managing Forward: How to Move from Measuring the Past to Managing the Future, there are different levels of customer loyalty.
There’s purchased loyalty you have gained by instituting customer rewards schemes, such as coupons, frequent flyer miles, and rebates. Here, the customer is only buying from you because of your rewards program, and he can go anytime to your nearby competitor. Moreover, this type of customer loyalty always expects something from the company and can be difficult to sustain in the long run.
Then there’s convenience loyalty you are only enjoying because you are, for instance, the nearest available restaurant to the customer’s apartment building. This type of loyalty, like purchased loyalty, is only temporary.
Similar to convenience loyalty is a customer being won over by virtue of restricted loyalty. You have the customer buying from you regularly because there aren’t any competitors around. Utility and service providers in remote areas often enjoy this privilege. This type of customer loyalty is becoming more and more passé as businesses increasingly branch out and create competition.
True loyalty is what you may want to keep. It is also the most difficult to earn because undying loyalty is borne out of remarkable customer satisfaction. Customers who exhibit true loyalty still buy from you even when they are courted by competitors. They will also recommend you to other people. And you know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most potent form of advertising.
The first step to earn true loyalty is to listen to your customers. That way, you can somehow personalize your service in order to meet their needs. Above anything else, make it a priority to earn true loyalty from your customers.
2. Always acknowledge return customers. Always.
Whether you own a small business or a big one, it makes a big difference to a customer if there is an acknowledgement and a word of thanks for the repeat purchase. Track customers, if you have the budget for it. Online business owners can readily do this in their e-commerce sites. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, then devise a system to recognize your repeat customers and thank them for coming back.
It is also a great idea to not only thank repeat customers but to thank them with flair. Come up with ideas to charm them. For example, if you own an online store, you might want to go beyond a standard thank-you page and offer useful, non-promotional information and resources.
3. Cultivate customer loyalty by offering speedy, efficient shipping and checkout process.
No-hitch and fast checkout and shipping is an effective way to make customers come back to you. Streamline your checkout and shipping process. Look for ways to reduce shipping costs while ensuring that your product arrives intact at the least time possible.
As for the checkout process, take your cue from Book Depository. When paying through PayPal, the buyer does not even have to register to the site. Simply click the PayPal button, enter the password, then voila. The more tedious your checkout process, the more potential buyers you will have changing their mind about their purchase. Plus, the likelihood of a customer remembering the intricacies and difficulty of going through your checkout process is very, very high. And that is a surefire way to discourage customer loyalty.
Over to you…
How do you cultivate customer loyalty? Do you have any further tips to add? Share your experience and tips below…