In our last post, we discussed the need to broaden our definition of customer loyalty to include online reviews, social sharing of recommendations and testimonials, and making repeat purchases. We argued that customer loyalty is so important in today’s business environment, that building customer loyalty should be elevated to the level of a business goal for most firms. The remaining question is how to make customer loyalty an achievable business goal.
The first step in achieving a business goal related to creating customer loyalty is to elevate it to a business goal shared enterprise-wide. The kind of loyal customer firms need today is a delighted customer who will become an evangelist for your brand or your product/service. Elevating customer loyalty will typically involve education (everyone must understand the value of customer loyalty), responsibility (most of your employees will have a direct or indirect role in creating loyal customers), and accountability for every customer interaction.
The second step in building customer loyalty is to describe the behaviors of employees at every level of your organization that contribute to customer loyalty. How do people in your product development department contribute to customer loyalty? How do customer service representatives contribute? Everyone needs to understand how their interactions with customers or with the products/services customers buy influence customer sentiment and behavior.
The third step is to develop a comprehensive customer loyalty program. The program will outline
- Desired behaviors of customers
- Employee behaviors that create customer loyalty
- Communication plans to stay in touch with customers across all types of touch points
- Create a system of rewards and incentives for repeat customers matched to the types of behaviors you hope to earn from loyal customers
- Repeat purchases
- Customer referrals
- Posting a positive review
- Social sharing of a testimonial
- Develop a set of thank-you communications or gifts to demonstrate your appreciation for their business
- Early announcements of new products or services
- Opportunities to help shape new product offerings
- Opportunities to help others derive the greatest benefits from your products
- Special insider reports about your company or your products/services
- Develop a set of rewards and incentives for your team when they contribute to customer loyalty. Remember, by treating your team well, you encourage them to treat customers well.
- Care about your customers and show it
- Offer special coupons
- Invite them to limited attendance sales
- Invite them to private product introductions
- Remember their birthday or anniversary
- Listen to their needs, desires, and pains. Ask them how they feel, what they like (or do not like) about doing business with you, and how you can make it easier for them to do so. Then, above all, act on what they tell you.
Building real customer loyalty is not just about how you treat a customer during a sales transaction. Customer loyalty is built by providing the information customers need to decide to do business with you. It is about creating a painless transaction. It is about the way you follow up with the customer after the sale, and the way you continue to do so during the ensuing months. Customer loyalty is built by going where your customers are and listening to what they say. Most of all, it is about listening and responding because you care about your customer.
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When creating loyal customers is elevated to the level of a business goal, it becomes part of your corporate culture. As a business goal, customer loyalty programs encompass every employee. When customer loyalty is a corporate business goal, every person understands the importance of his/her work in building the future of the organization. When you hire the people who can make this happen, and you treat them well, creating loyal customers will come naturally.
You can make customer loyalty an achievable business goal in your organization by hiring people who care about your customers, empowering them and supporting them in delighting customers, and building the programs and processes to support a focus on customer loyalty.