As business gets tougher and the competition consistently challenges your share of the market, it’s vital that you build loyalty to your brand. While a loyalty programme can help to achieve and maintain this loyalty, it’s ultimately the quality of your service and/or products that will determine your success.
Everyone talks about the importance of customer satisfaction. If you’ve been able to satisfy the customer, you must have been successful. This is far from the truth. In fact, customer satisfaction only goes half-way in terms of great service.
Understanding satisfied customers
First, we need to understand the real meaning of ‘customer satisfaction’. When a customer arrives at your business, they have certain expectations of their forthcoming experience. They will expect a friendly atmosphere, a positive attitude and professional service. If you are able to meet these expectations, they will be satisfied… no more and no less. Everything will be fine. But do you really want your business — or your customers — to just be fine?
A ‘fine’ customer has nothing bad to say about your business, and they might be happy to return or do business with you in the future. But, they will probably be just as happy to try your competitor. They’ll feel no sense of betrayal about leaving you, because you haven’t been able to create any kind of emotional attachment between them and your business. You’ve created no loyalty, because simply meeting expectations is just not good enough.
Loyalty is born when you exceed the expectations of a customer. A customer who is pleasantly surprised by all the little extras they receive throughout their experience in dealing with your brand and employees will walk away thinking “Wow, that was great.” They will return to your business, and even better they will spread the word throughout their friendship and business circle. Loyalty is unyielding, unrelenting and forever faithful. It’s the pinnacle of business success.
Before we discuss how to build loyalty, perhaps it’s better to first describe what may drive people away from your business.Here are just a few examples of poor service that will destroy loyalty:
- You show no genuine or personal interest in the customer
- Poor response time to queries/complaints
- Unavailability – couldn’t get the service or the stock item required
- Long waits for the phone to be answered or in the queue to get served
- An unfriendly person at the front line – if you’re happy, tell your face and smile
- Argumentative staff who believe it’s more important to be proven right than to keep the customer
- Promises not kept – customers are like elephants… they never forget
- Poor product knowledge and a lack of sufficient staff to handle demand
- A poor professional image that does not display the right image of the brand
- Lame excuses about why you can’t help a customer with their problem or query.
On the other hand, here are some examples of what you can do to build loyalty:
- Go the extra mile to create a memorable customer experience
- Surprise the customer with random acts of kindness
- Make customers feel special and important
- Do whatever it takes to exceed the customer’s needs and wants
- Never use the word “No.” Start every response on a positive note
- Deal with complaints in such a way that you turn the negative into a positive – remember that a complaint is a gift, it’s an opportunity to create a loyal customer
- Never use company policies as an excuse for poor service
- Don’t be afraid to give refunds. This might seem difficult at the time, but it helps to secure the loyalty of that customer. Always see the long-term benefits of refunding customers as opposed to the short-term losses.
The value of complaints
When a customer has experienced a full recovery from an unhappy experience, the problem has been sorted out to their complete and total joy, or when they have been surprised by your willingness to help, they are more than likely to become a loyal customer for life. A customer who has never had a problem in the first place can also be loyal, true, but don’t run away from customer complaints — use them to your advantage.
Customers do not make up stories about your business.
You are the one who creates these stories — they just go out there and repeat them. What stories they tell and how they feel is entirely up to you. You need your customers to be brand ambassadors, singing your praises to anyone who will listen. Foster an emotional attachment to your brand that keeps them coming back and encouraging others to do the same. That is true loyalty and it only comes from superior customer service.