Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Building Customer Loyalty

I love my car salesperson.  I know that is an odd thing to hear someone say, but it's true.  I have lived in NWA for 19 years.  In that time, we have purchased several new vehicles - and all but one were purchased from the same person.  Not necessarily the same dealership - but always the same person.  We are such loyal customers of hers, we follow her to whichever dealership she is working for at the time.

Imagine how much easier it would be to build your business if you already had an band of loyal customers.  It takes much less effort and cost to keep loyal customers than it does to gain new ones.  They are less susceptible to offers from your competitors.  They are normally less likely to let price be an issue in their decisions - as long as you don't get too outrageous.  And they can provide some of your best marketing efforts.  Nothing beats personal recommendations from loyal customers. Wouldn't you love to instill that kind of loyalty in your own business?  Well, you can.  Here's how.

1.  Know your customers.  One reason I follow Jeri wherever she goes is because she knows me.  She knows exactly what type of vehicle I like - and also what type I need.  So when I call her to tell her I am in the market for something new, she only shows me makes and models that meet my needs.  Since she knows I my time is precious to me, she normally has several selections lined up and ready for me to look at and test drive when I get there.  Because she knows me so well, I can usually complete the entire transaction in record time and without all the annoying sales tactics that drive me crazy.  Why would I go anywhere else?

Your products or services are meaningful to your customers only if they fulfill a need.  Show your value from their perspective.  Jeri doesn't sell me cars anymore.  She sells me convenience.  She sells me time and efficiency.  Because that's what I'm really in the market for.    

 2.  Provide over-the-top customer service.  I recently purchased a new Jeep - from Jeri, of course.  I wanted some accessories added so after finishing the paperwork, I left it with the service department, intending to pick it up the next day - Friday.  Unfortunately, things got a bit hectic and I wasn't able to make it.  I called the service department to let them know.  Shortly after, I received a phone call from Jeri.  She had stopped by the service department to make sure that everything was ready for m.  When they told her I was not coming in that day, she quickly called and offered to bring it to me - an hour drive - so I would have it for the weekend.  We had already completed all of the paperwork so she knew she had the sale and yet she was willing to give up 2 hours of her time so I could have my car.  Did that make an impression?  Yes!

3.  Communicate freely.  When there is a problem, don't hide it.  Be upfront with your customers and let them know.  If you are going to be late, let them know.  If things are not going according to plan, let them know.  Customers will usually allow for unexpected mishaps, provided you keep them informed. 

4.  First and last impressions are invaluable.  When I sang with the NWA Symphony Chorus, the director told us to make sure we always started perfectly and finished with a bang.  He said the audience would remember the beginning and the end of our performance more than anything that happened in between.  The same is true of any customer transaction.  Customers will remember their first impression and the final minutes more vividly than anything else.  The DFW Hilton Executive Conference Center has mastered this concept.  As soon as you step up to the entrance you are quickly greeted, the doors are opened for you (even if you are empty handed), and you are welcomed to the property.  The customer service throughout the hotel is impeccable, but it starts right at the front door, which just sets the tone for the rest of the stay.  And when I leave, the last thing I hear is a thank you, as the doors are once again held for me, and an invitation to return when I am in the area again.  And I will.

5.  Reward your loyal customers.  It doesn't have to be expensive.  Just show that you appreciate them.  I love shopping at Sephora.  I get free samples with every purchase.  My daughter and I were at Starbucks in Dallas yesterday where she picked up an code for a free Golf app for her husband's iPhone with her coffee.  Jeri always gives me a free oil change with my vehicle purchase.  My insurance agent never fails to send me a birthday card.  Customer rewards can be as simple as a follow up service call, a discount for future purchases, a free product, or just a small token of your appreciation for their business.

6.  Be consistent and credible.  You have to be both.  Consistency is worthless if you consistently fail to measure up to expectations!  Do what you say you will do.  If you set an appointment, be there on time.  If you say you will call back, do so.  If you guarantee your product or service, honor that guarantee.  If you say your hours are 8:00 to 5:00, then make sure someone is available to help your customers from 8:00 - 5:00, not 8:15 - 4:30.  And do these things all the time - not just on your good days.  I used to have a hairdresser.  Some days I would go in and I would be treated like a queen.  Scalp massage, hot towels, scented oil - the works.  While she was doing my hair, she would stop frequently to make sure I was happy with what she was doing.  Other days, if she was in a hurry, or maybe had a bad day, it was a shampoo and haircut without a word until she was finished.  I would have been fine without all of the other amenities.  I just hated not knowing what to expect.  I never recommended her to anyone else for the same reason - I wasn't sure what level of service they would get.  And I wasn't sure that if she had a REALLY bad day, it wouldn't show up in my hair!  Needless to say, I soon found someone else.

7.  Be loyal to your customers.  You get what you give.  If you want loyalty, you have to give it. Make sure your customers know you are there for them if they need you.  Like Jeri delivering my car, or my lawn care man who is coming on Easter Sunday (his suggestion not my request) because he knows I have been out of town, and that my yard is already resembling a jungle, sometimes loyalty takes a little sacrifice.  But the rewards are amazing!



No comments: