Repeat business is the goal of most businesses. After all, having a roster of loyal customers who continually return to buy from you significantly reduces your marketing overhead (though not to zero – you should always be working to attract new clients) and is more likely to lead to referrals.
So how do you start creating loyal customers? It’s easy and simplistic to trot out clichés such as, “under promise and over deliver”, or “go the extra mile” – these platitudes are true, of course but are so vague as to be practically useless. Here are five specific activities that will result in increased customer loyalty.
1. Focus on what you’re best at.
Too often, a business tries to be all things to all people, in the belief that a wider range of products and services will draw in the widest range of customers. To a certain extent this is true. However, for a small business, there is a risk of spreading yourself too thinly and the likelihood of being able to offer a truly differentiated and competitive service in all areas is low. And the market is full of mediocre suppliers. The way to stand out is to be the best, so it makes sense to focus your services and products on what you do best. This way, you’ll outperform the competition, your customers will remember you and – most importantly – they’ll keep coming back for more.
2. Use online reviews.
Whether it’s Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon and eBay reviews, the contemporary marketplace is full of opportunities for your customers to publicly share their opinion of your products and services. How you respond to online reviews is a significant determiner of how you are perceived as a business. Bear in mind the following recommendations:
Respond to every review, especially the negative ones.
But don’t respond to a negative review immediately – you’re human, negative feedback is a type of attack, give yourself space and you’ll respond in a much more measured (and customer-retentive) manner.
Don’t post (or ask friends to post) fake reviews – you may get away with it for a while but the moment you’re caught it wipes out all your good will (the genuine along with the fake).
Always, always, always keep your online contributions positive – what people read on your page (whether in response to their comments or someone else’s) is all part of their customer experience. Remember to keep that experience positive, anything else will not result in loyalty.
3. When raising prices, be honest.
As inflation and the cost of living rise, so will the prices of your products and services. This can make for an uncomfortable conversation with clients and customers but remember, this isn’t personal, it’s just business. Be open, be transparent, and let the customer know before they commission anything further (to avoid it looking like an ambush – you don’t want them feeling like they have no choice).
4. Give the opportunity to provide feedback.
Communication is key to involving customers in your business and the way in which you deliver it; and a feedback mechanism is one of the easiest ways to engage with and involve customers. Just remember (a little like the online comments) to respond to all feedback, and to keep your responses constructive. Imagine all feedback as a gift – you don’t have to use it but it’s only good manners to say thank you.
5. Provide extra as standard.
The more comfortable customers are with you as a supplier, the more likely they are to ask for something last minute. It’s a common pricing tactic to charge extra for such jobs. The customer may even expect you to. That doesn’t mean they want you to or that they’ll like it if you do. After all, unless you’ve really been put to an inconvenience (impact on other jobs, encroachment on your personal life, etc.) then it’s not really costing you extra so why gouge the customer? Because that’s probably how they feel: gouged or ripped off; and customers feeling like that don’t come back. At this stage you might be thinking, good riddance. But imagine if instead you came through for them and made a point of not charging extra even though it might be common, standard practice even, to do so in your industry? How would that customer feel? Where would their loyalty lie?