Whether you’re in the business-to-business sector or you work directly with consumers, your organisation relies on the relationships it forges with its customers to distinguish itself from the myriad other companies out there vying for their attention. The best way to do this is to differentiate yourself from all the other options your customers have when it comes doing business; the best way to accomplish this goal is to turn each and every customer into a loyal one.
This isn’t necessarily a difficult endeavor, but it does require a multifaceted approach that needs to be exhaustive when it comes to your own business practices. The truth is there’s no tried-and-true method that will automatically transform your customers into rabidly loyal ones that wouldn’t ever dare of taking their business elsewhere. In fact, the focus should never be on trying to mold your customers into what you want them to be – instead, your focus should always be on how your business can change and adapt to accommodate your customers. In order to help you achieve those goals, here are seven truly outstanding methods for earning the loyalty of your customers and keeping that loyalty for the duration.
Make sure you have the right people working for you.
With your customer service staff being your first point of contact between your business and your company, these individuals need to be the absolute best of the best when it comes to the people who interact directly with your customers.
What this means is that you’re going to have to take a very close look at who you’ve got stationed at the front lines. This isn’t the time to be lax about tolerating a customer service rep that’s been demonstrating unenthusiastic behavior. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go reach for the hatchet, but you can begin to think if there’s another role in your organisation that this service representative might be able to fill better than his or her service role. Only if there’s no role for this staff member to fill – or if you suspect he or she wouldn’t be able to perform the role properly – should you consider going on the hunt for a different employee.
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Keep the skills of your customer service staff sharp.
This can be accomplished in any myriad of ways, according to your particular business needs. In some instances, your CSRs may benefit from some continuing education or a re-training programme to ensure that they’re adhering to best practices. Of course, if the problem is that your training regimen isn’t sufficient in the first place, this is an excellent opportunity to revamp it and ensure that staff both new and old will get the training they need to excel.
If your training system is already a good one, you’re likely to have better overall service levels. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have incentive programmes to inspire your employees to focus on your customers. Singling out workers for service that goes above and beyond through an incentive program is an excellent way to encourage your staff to increase their attention to customer service, especially if they know they’ll be rewarded.
Sort out any problems with your workflow.
Taking a long, hard look at any of the processes your company uses from the point of view of your customers can help you identify where there are inefficiencies or places where you’re inconveniencing them unduly.
Most of these issues will likely be due to limitations in the systems you’re using; perhaps the point-of-sale systems of your retail store are out of date, or the equipment you use to print product labels are slow and prone to jamming. Whatever the problem may be, it may require some investment on your part to streamline processes with new, updated equipment. However, the return on investment in increased customer loyalty by providing better service is likely to be high.
Make sure your company offers its customers something both unique and valuable.
One of the best ways to build customer loyalty is to offer either a product or a service that no one else can say they do. Otherwise, there’s no reason to do business with you if they can get the same things you offer elsewhere – possibly for less than you’re charging. Meanwhile, your customers need to feel that whatever you’re offering has to have some intrinsic value of its own – otherwise there’s nothing for customers to get passionate about, and therefore no way for loyalty to develop.
When it comes to being unique, this doesn’t have to be in the form of a product feature or something of that nature though; these things are often ephemeral. Instead, think about showcasing how your business reputation is one of trustworthiness and how easy it is for other businesses to partner with you when it comes to inventory, accounts payable, and any other ways that you can showcase how reliable your company is, and how easy you are to do business with.
Make sure you understand your customers.
It’s easy to assume that the customers that come to your place of business looking for a product or a service you offer know what they’re looking for. This seems counter-intuitive in today’s modern world when you’ve got the sum of all man’s knowledge encased in that little glass and steel smart phone in your hand or in your pocket, but sometimes customers don’t have the time to spare to research every prospective purchase – especially if time is of the essence and they need a product or service to solve their own problems in a hurry.
In fact, customers have an expectation that your sales and service staff know everything they need to know not just about how your own business runs but how to best meet the needs of these customers. Your staff have to be astute armchair detectives or even mind-readers when it comes to anticipating the needs of a customer and going the extra mile to get to the bottom of things rapidly and accurately. Aligning yourself closely with your customers shows them that you’re one of them instead of being an outsider, and that breeds loyalty when you’re just “one of the guys.”
Add as much value as possible with every interaction.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the only business in the country that sells a particular widget and you know your customer’s needs inside out and better than they do; if your customer doesn’t walk away from every contact with your organisation feeling like they just had an exceptional experience, you’ll never earn their loyalty.
Every interaction you have with a customer has to provide something that’s not only new and interesting but positive as well. You can’t ever waste a single scrap of the customer’s time; likewise you need to do your best to anticipate their needs or problems – ideally before they even realize it themselves. There’s no second chances when it comes to building and maintaining customer loyalty. Even in the case of a long-time customer, you can still end up losing their loyalty from one single misstep. This is why you need to show each and every customer, at each and every encounter, that you know how important they are to your business.
Finally, there’s no other way to say it: go above and beyond.
There’s a reason so many business experts counsel companies to exceed the expectations of your customer at every opportunity, and it’s because a satisfied customer isn’t necessarily one that won’t leave you in a heartbeat if a better deal comes along from a competitor.
There are satisfied customers, and then there are loyal ones. Any sales clerk or customer service rep can leave a customer satisfied after plying them with free promotional items or discounts on goods and services, but you can’t buy loyalty with that sort of cheap and transparent action. Instead, do whatever you can for your customers. If you’re business-to-business, refer new customers to your clients when appropriate. If you’re business to consumer, don’t hesitate to take that extra mile – walk your customer to their car in the rain with an umbrella. Carry their purchases for them. Whatever it takes to prove to them that you’re the real deal and you’d go to the ends of the Earth for them.
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