9 ways to build customer loyalty

Build customer loyalty

I had a really interesting experience the other day related to – how to build customer loyalty. I wanted to try a new blogging tool.  I was doing some research and found something I thought I’d try.  They had a free trial with no credit card required and so I decided to give it a go.  I installed the plugin and went over to the site and started clicking around.  Soon after that, I got an email — FROM THE CEO!

Now, let me be clear, this isn’t a small company I’m talking about. OK, it’s not Apple either, but it’s a known brand and I guess the CEO must have been doing something online this weekend because I was lucky enough to email back and forth with him. The entire conversation started with an automated email that requested my feedback. I responded and every email after that was a personalized response in answer to my questions.

This got me thinking about all the companies I’ve worked with and used over the years and what they actually did to earn my loyalty. I created this list and thought I’d share it with you.

  1. Use Mobile. With more than 4 billion mobile devices out there, it’s a good chance that your customers will be using a mobile device to interact with you in some way.  Make sure that your website is RESPONSIVE — that means that it automatically adjusts to the size of the screen.
  2. Survey Them. We’ve already established that surveys can actually INCREASE sales because the mere act of surveying customers puts you top of mind and your customers are more likely to buy.  But here’s another benefit to surveying your customers; it’s a great way to inform your customers about your products, services and what sets you apart from the competition.  In other words, your survey will tell them what you’re doing for them — and that also build customer loyalty.
  3. Create a personalized experience. Personalization is a huge trend.  In the story I shared above, the company I was interacting with found a wonderful way to insert personalization into their marketing funnel.  To give great customer service, research what really matters to your customers.  Don’t hide behind technology, use it to bring you closer to your customer and that way build customer loyalty.
  4. Engage with Incentives. Too many businesses take the easy way out by defaulting to incentives like iPads or gift cards.  While those are certainly nice, you risk getting engagement from people who are more interested in the incentive and not as interested in what you’re offering.  Get creative and look for incentives that not only feature your product or assistance, but give real benefit to the customer.  For example, you can let your best customers skip the line, or have a fancy event for your customers where you feature your latest and greatest.  If you sell a physical product, send your customers free samples before you launch it to anyone else. The idea is to build customer loyalty and make your customer feel special.
  5. Socialize. There are hundreds of gurus out there pitching all manner of social media strategies.  Don’t just default to what everyone else is doing — take a close look at which social media channels your customers participate the most in and be there too. Engage with your customers as people and not just credit card numbers.  Years ago, I was on the Walmart blog and was astounded when I actually got into a conversation with one of their buyers in the toy department who had written an article about a toy I was interested in buying for my son.  We shared a couple of “boy” experiences about the toy in question.  It was really terrific and I have to say, it left me feeling better about shopping at Walmart.
  6. Develop rewards programs with levels of engagement. Would you believe that a paying membership program could actually increase customer loyalty?  I read about a local restaurant that actually offered 3 levels of membership that their customers could purchase.  Inside each package were coupons, offers, and invitations to events.  When members came in to use their rewards, they actually brought friends — who – you guessed it — bought a package!  Each month the restaurant would have special events to celebrate their members. Definitely worth doing to build customer loyalty.
  7. Focus on employees. There are actually two schools of thought: one says to focus on the customer and give them everything.  This is a great strategy and one I’m featuring here. But there’s another school of thought: focus on the EMPLOYEES and they will naturally give great service. There are many examples of companies that are employees first companies; Southwest Airlines is one of them.  If that’s too much for you, start by allowing them to be flexible with policies.  Train your employees, give them guidelines and a structure inside of which they can operate and then, just let them be.  If you’d like to learn more about this, read I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss.
  8. Know your products and service inside and out.  This might seem obvious to you, but how many times have you walked into a store and asked an associate a question only to get a blank stare?  When I lived in Dayton, we used to shop at a local bookstore that looked a lot like a Border’s or a Barnes and Noble, but it was run by book lovers and was called Books & Co.  Everyone who worked there was a real book lover.  It was not at all unusual to get into a pretty deep conversation with one of the associates while browsing the aisles.  These people were practically like librarians.
  9. Be your word. I already know that I need to explain this point a little deeper.  It’s one thing to GIVE your word, to do what you said you would do.  This is certainly a great trait.  But BEING your word is a little different. BEING your word is more like living your brand.  Each of my personal customer service examples here illustrates the idea of BEING your word.  Here is another practical way to be your word: be transparent.  It’s ok to make a mistake or not to know.  Being transparent means that you will do things a certain way.

I always like to say that marketing isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you are. In today’s world, likeability trumps capability.

Given the choice, people would much rather buy from people they like. They are more willing to forgive small mistakes and shoot – even big ones. When people like you, they want to spend time with you and money with you.

Use these nine tips to build customer and brand loyalty and you’ll not only increase sales, but you’ll also have a lot more fun at work.

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