Customer loyalty drives retention and referrals. It is a topic important to every CEO concerned with profitability. A contractor recently asked me how to force his customers to become more loyal to him. My response was, “It is not possible. You can’t force your clients to be loyal, just like you can’t force your friends to be loyal.”

Gimmicks do not work. My wife will have us fly on any airline that gives us the most frequent flyer miles. These programs have taught us to look for a deal, it has not engendered any loyalty beyond the almighty dollar.

However, there are things you can do to “earn” your customer’s loyalty. Let’s look at this from two perspectives, your clients and your employees:

Clients’ perspective

Treat clients like best friends: When a problem arises, drop your busy work and take care of them right away just like you would a friend. In fact, don’t wait for your clients to call you with issues or problems. Reach out to them and make sure everything is ok and ask if there is anything you can do for them.

Manzer’s Landscape Design (in NY) keeps their clients close by calling them monthly to stay in touch with their needs and feedback.

Look out for their money: Be proactive in your warranty efforts, reaching out to them before the warranty expires—they will love you for that. Moreover, honor warranty even when it is just outside the time limit. They will appreciate your loyalty.

Treat their property as if it were your own property. What would you do if you owned their property? Walk their property and make a list of actions you would undertake, to protect the landscape.

Don’t always go for the nickel and dime sale. Do a few things for free, and let them know about it! This will show your loyalty to them.

Make them look good: Make donations in their name. Buds-n-Blades (in WA) has a program to show their thanks every holiday season; it makes everyone look good and feel good!

Don’t mess with their favorite faces: Give your clients the same account manager and the same crew leaders to deal with on their property.

All things being equal, people like doing business with people they know, like and trust. This concept works for small $200,000 landscape companies as well as for the landscape firms that are $10million plus.

Show your staff you mean it: In a team meeting discuss how your company can express loyalty to your clients. The act of having this discussion will inspire your staff and get them focused on ‘”the good of the client.” Have your bookkeeper and office people in on this discussion—loyalty needs to come from all corners of the company.

Think about your most loyal friends and vendors: what do they do for you that makes you feel special? Ask your employees this same question, get them thinking. Then ask, “what can you do to build loyalty with our clients?”

Employee’s perspective

How do you ensure your staff are showing loyalty to your customers? (You can probably guess where this is going….) You first have to show loyalty to your staff.

Loyalty is something you pay forward

Communicate to your staff like family: Let them know how the company is doing, what the company is doing, and what the future holds. Let them know how they are doing, and what they can do to improve their value and position in the company. Spend time to get to know them personally; show that you care–they will do the same for your customers.

According to the Harvard Business Review:

– Helping your employees develop their careers and expertise creates loyalty and an alignment of company-employee values.

– Designing work with ‘autonomy and variety’ develops loyalty within your employee base.

– Also, studies have shown that when someone leaves a company they are often leaving due to a troubled relationship with their immediate supervisor. The opposite is also true. A positive relationship with their immediate supervisors will promote loyalty with employees and promote a healthy, positive work environment.

Guaranteeing customer loyalty: Loyalty is not just about the warm and fuzzy’s, it can (and must) also be systematized, as you grow larger.