Customer loyalty is built upon consistently positive, high-value experiences with a brand, often exceeding customer expectations. Loyalty goes beyond satisfying needs or wants. It’s an emotional connection to a brand that customers love and will happily return for. However, genuine customer loyalty is something few brands attain. With so many options and alternatives for customers to choose from, retaining customers is hard enough, let alone instilling a true sense of loyalty.
But customer loyalty has a tremendous impact on a brand. Loyal customers spend 300% more than other customers and are five times more likely to choose the brand for future purchases. So how do brands build trust and deliver consistently exceptional experiences that drive customer loyalty?
Here are my top tips for moving beyond satisfaction and harnessing the power of loyalty for your business.
1) Focus on customer-centricity.
The first step to customer loyalty is placing the customer at the center of your company. This is easier said than done. To be a truly customer-centric brand, you must let the customer influence everything: business decisions, daily routines, hiring decisions, website design, and product development. They must be the driving force of your business and each experience needs to embody this mindset. Customer centricity is difficult to implement because it can go against the better judgement of many CEOs and business owners, who are primarily focusing on maximizing profitability.
Before making any decision, ask how it will impact the customer and if it’s in their best interests.
Yes, this is difficult to implement company-wide. But will your customers love you for it? Absolutely.
2) Give them the ‘Cheers’ treatment.
The overt themes behind the long-running sit-com about the bar where everyone knows your name resonate nicely in the business world. ‘Cheers’ was a fictional Boston bar where the characters knew the bartenders, owners, and most of the other people inside. It was a locals’ haven and when the regulars walked in, they were served before they got a chance to sit down. Apply the same principles to your relationship with your customers.
Customers want to feel that you care for them, you understand them and that they mean something to your business. Create a system that recognizes when return customers are on your website or visiting your store. Welcome them with a message that acknowledges the fact that they’re a regular customer. A simple message like, “Hey Sam, welcome back! Here are some offers you may be interested in.” can go a long way to building a stronger connection. To go the extra mile, try matching their purchase history to a new offer and really zero-in on what appeals to them.
3) Resolution = satisfaction, speed = loyalty.
Nothing impacts loyalty more than a company’s ability to address customer inquiries efficiently. Whether it’s a complaint, a call for help or a general inquiry about a product, the longer a customer issue goes unresolved, the more it erodes their perception of, and trust in, your brand. Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair. To the previous point, customers want to feel that you care about them, and nothing says “I don’t care” like waiting too long to address an inquiry or ignoring it altogether. Conversely, a business that moves fast – and tackles problems before they have a chance to escalate – can leave a lasting impression on your customer that they’ll likely share with their friends. Show customers you value their time by resolving issues efficiently and quickly.
4) Give them something to share and talk about.
Rather than hoping your customers will share your content online, make it irresistible not to. Produce awesome content that focuses more on entertaining your audience instead of selling your product or service. Customers love brands that entertain them while providing value. Stay true to your brand and produce content that sparks an emotional response in your customers.
Red Bull, Old Spice, Dove, and GoPro are all great examples of companies producing highly entertaining content, each with a different tone. No matter the industry you’re in, the core principles are the same: produce amazing content that’s irresistible to your audience.
5) Develop emotional bonds with customers.
Your brand, not your product or service, plays a central role in building emotional connections with customers. To do this effectively, you must communicate to your customers that you’re ‘human’. Empower frontline staff such as customer service agents and your communications team to make better decisions for customers by focusing on customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value. Loyalty will develop when customers know they’re dealing with real, caring people when contacting your company.
Look at Zappos for an example of a company that uses its frontline staff to develop authentic connections with customers. Zappos built its brand on going above and beyond for customers. One of their 10 commandments is delivering ‘WOW through service’, which often manifests in upgrading customers to free overnight shipping or sending them flowers and a thank you note. It’s not just a way of working, it’s a way of thinking and acting. Take the same approach at your company and look for ways you can develop stronger emotional bonds with customers.
Customer satisfaction is one part of the mix. You can certainly win the battle by satisfying customer needs as they arise. But to win the war, you need to build a loyal following of customers that will champion your brand, spread your message and grow your business.
(Image source: Adobe Stock)