Friday, April 13, 2012

5 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

April is International Customer Loyalty Month! One key to having a thriving business is a constant customer base. A couple of reasons you'll want to make sure you keep your customers and make them happy: 1) A successful business usually sees 80 percent of its business from 20 percent of its customers; 2) The cost of attracting new customers is considerably more than that of keeping a relationship with the customers you already have.

So, if your goal is for your business to 'live long and prosper,' your effort toward developing customer loyalty will pay off:

1. Communicate. It doesn't matter if you send out a monthly e-newsletter, a reminder card or holiday greeting cards, you need to create a system for contacting the customers you already have. Take some time to develop and maintain a database of contact information that includes email addresses (and maybe snail mail) and phone numbers. Also, invite them to visit your blog and/or social media pages.

One other thing to keep in mind: All your messages don't need to be advertising. Some of the information you send should be valuable and informative to them.

2. Give Great Customer Service. This means going "the extra mile" to be sure you meet the customer's needs. They will remember if you treat them well, and positive customer experiences causes repeat business. With that said, pay attention to your customers' concerns and complaints. When they let you know that they're less-than-happy, they give you the chance to fix their issue and to improve your service.

Be sure you provide a clear and accessible method for customers to contact you - in person, by phone or email, and be sure you have a person who deals with customer service regularly. Finally, always keep a positive attitude toward your customers.

3. Provide Incentives. These give people a reason to come back. Incentives come in many forms, for instance, buy two and get one free, rebates, gift cards, etc. All of these things encourage people to choose your business when they decide to spend their hard-earned money.

Organize your incentive program with your marketing strategies, and be sure the incentive works with your target audience. You can use the program to increase business when its slow and to promote new products.

4. Create a Reputation for Reliability. Your business' reputation is very much related to how reliable your products and services are. The more reliable they are, the more likely your business is to have a positive reputation.

Be reliable, communicate in a clear manner, stick to your promises and warranties, and be considerate of a customer's time and concerns. And if something happens to go wrong, let the customer know as soon as possible, and make up for the inconvenience.

5. Be Flexible with your Policies. Always keep in mind that each customer is an individual with their own circumstances and needs. Do whatever you can (within reason) to solve the customer's problems. Do not assume you understand the circumstance before you've heard what he or she has to say and made an attempt to see things from their viewpoint. If you show that you're listening, you will have a better chance of keeping the customer's business, even if you can't resolve the issue fully.

For five more tips, check out my source, Ten Tips to Build Customer Loyalty

What are some ways you build customer loyalty in your business?

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