In today's market, there is more competition than ever for every consumer dollar. The best, most effective way to protect your business from competition is to increase the loyalty of your existing customers. Customer loyalty is the golden shield that protects your client base from being nibbled away by your competitor's latest low price, new product offering, or hot technology. Customer loyalty prevents your business from suffering drastic revenue ups and downs as consumers become more aggressive bargain shoppers.
There are five steps to building consistent customer loyalty-and a stronger business:
- Understand Customers' Buying Motivations
People tend to buy from people who understand their problems or concerns. With a new prospect customer, be sure to listen more than you speak. Before offering solutions, know his buying motivation. Let the customer tell you what he wants and why he wants it. Simple as it sounds, if you repeat back what he's just said, then answer his concerns, you'll win him as a new customer. He'll see you as a problem solver rather than a salesperson.
- Create Customer Obligation
In your selling process, provide extra services that create a sense of obligation in the mind of the consumer. Let the customer see you go out of your way in locating that obscure item or out-of-print book. Provide information unique to her buying situation to help her decide between product A or product B. Offer to drop off quotes at her office. The principal of reciprocation encourages buyers to "pay back" an obligation with loyalty.
- Practice Post-sales Follow-up
One of the most effective ways to show your customers that you care about their business is with post-sales or service follow up. Take the effort to contact your customers after the sale and find out about their satisfaction level. Ask questions like, "Did it solve your problem?" "Is it still working fine for you?" or "Is there anything further I can do for you?" Your concern for their satisfaction will have them calling you again and again.
- Build Trust
In our increasingly cynical society, client trust is built slowly over time. Building trust means never showing up late for a client meeting-ever. You create client trust by ensuring prompt delivery every time, and meeting or exceeding project deadlines consistently. Trust means that your clients know you keep your promises even if you must crawl through broken glass and jump through flaming hoops to do so.
- Provide Consistently Superior Service or Products
Unfortunately, it only takes one episode of poor service or bad product to destroy years of loyalty-building effort. Like a rotten apple, a dissatisfied customer will spread the word about his bad experience with you and your business. It is true that bad reviews travel faster than good.
Quality control measures, such as consistent employee training and monitoring, product sampling, and continual systems improvement, help guard against customer dissatisfaction. Equally important, stay close enough to your customers to resolve any dissatisfaction before it occurs.
Implementing these strategies to grow a loyal customer base or clientele requires a long-term commitment, but ask yourself these questions:
"If my competitors build a better mousetrap, how much of my client base can I afford to lose?"
"When I can no longer compete on price, how soon will I be forced out by the giant corporations?"
If you don't like your answers to these tough questions, remember the five steps to customer loyalty and begin putting them into action today.