What is “customer loyalty” exactly? What is that sticky, though sometimes nebulous quality that causes customers to choose a brand again and again? For different products, the reasons why people will choose a product consistently varies, and each customer, of course, is different. To uncover what makes your customers loyal to your product, you can’t apply a blanket policy and hope that it will inspire customer loyalty.

Discover, instead, what makes your customers tick. What do they look for when purchasing products in your category? What makes them return to a product and remain loyal to a brand? The best way to answer these questions is by asking your customers through surveys. You can create your own surveys and send them out to customers, or you can use programs such as SurveyMonkey that have surveys tailored to brand loyalty.

Keep in mind that there are also plenty of customer surveys that aim to measure customer satisfaction, surveys about their purchasing experience, product satisfaction, and surveys that measure the Net Promoter Score. In this exercise, you’ll be specifically seeking out information about brand attributes so you can understand customer loyalty better.

Below we’ve outlined questions to get you started.

First, start off broad

You will first want to gain a better understanding of how customers see the industry as a whole. Here are sample questions that will give you a better understanding of the marketplace:

  • What are some traits you look for when shopping for (insert your industry category)?
  • When you think about (insert industry category), what brands do you first think about?
  • What are some positive words or associations you have with (insert brand category)?
  • What are some negative words or associations you have with (insert brand category)?

Now you can get more specific

Your next set of questions will be more specific and seek to uncover what specific attributes people look for in your category. You can use the responses from the first question above to help you write this next question, since you’ll have a better idea of people’s associations and what they look for when buying in your category. For example, if you manage a cell phone carrier, industry associations may include low-cost plans or flexible contracts. Hone in on what is most important for people. Here is a sample question:

  • What is most important for you when choosing a cell-phone carrier?
    • Low-cost plans
    • Stores or outlets in convenient locations
    • Superior customer service
    • Bundled plans
    • Flexible contract terms
    • Write in your own ________

Get really specific

Finally, understand how your brand is perceived by asking people a question such as:

“Which of the following traits best describes (insert your brand name)?”

Is there a gap between what people are looking for in the category and how you are perceived? If so, what changes can you make to help drive and improve customer loyalty? Are there internal and structural changes that you can make? Do you need to improve and change your approach to customer service training? Do you need to re-configure your contracts? What really matters to your customers? Uncovering this will help you tap into the key component that drives repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing: Customer loyalty.

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