In today’s profit-driven business environment, it’s easy to focus on relentlessly growing and expanding your consumer base. But smart companies know their most valuable customers are the ones they already have.
All businesses — whether they provide a daily cup of coffee or a once-in-a-decade service like buying houses for cash — can cultivate customer loyalty and lock in repeat buyers. Keep reading for ways to exceed customer expectations and build brand loyalty.
Treat Your Staff How You Want Them to Treat Your Customers
Frontline staff and your customer service department will most frequently interact with your customers. Those interactions will go a long way in how customers perceive your brand. Give your customers stellar service, and they will reward you with loyalty. Give them subpar service, and they may avoid your brand in the future.
Take care of your employees to give your customers the service they deserve. Happy and well-compensated workers will naturally pass that treatment on to the customer. A staff that’s disgruntled and ready to quit probably won’t do more than the bare minimum for your customers. Remember, how you treat your team is often how they’ll treat your customers.
Solicit Customer Feedback and Use It
Customers will often tell you exactly what they want if you simply ask them. Regularly monitor customer feedback. If you’re not receiving a steady stream of actionable feedback, ask for it through feedback forms, surveys, and social media polls.
Not all feedback you receive will be positive, but all of it will be valuable. In fact, negative feedback might be more helpful, especially if you receive the same complaints repeatedly. These customer suggestions can help you pinpoint precisely where to improve your operation.
Don’t be too proud or sensitive. Incorporate customer feedback into your best practices, and turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Offer the Best Product
It’s important to offer top-notch customer service and respond to customer feedback, but that’s all slightly peripheral to your core product. Whether you’re selling valuation models, moving services, or event registration software, delivering the best possible product will always be the best way to build customer loyalty.
To do that, ask your customers what they want. All you have to do is listen and implement any practical suggestions. If you produce a subpar product, customers will know and likely tell others about their disappointment. Negative word of mouth can be devastating, and once the contagion spreads, it can take years to repair.
Build a Community
Giving your customers a virtual place to gather serves many purposes. First, it cultivates a sense of community, which reinforces loyalty. It also gives your customers a designated place to ask questions and provide feedback, which you can regularly monitor and harvest. It’s a lot easier to go to a private Facebook group, subreddit, or website forum to see what your customers are saying, as opposed to searching the vast reaches of the internet for brand mentions. Virtual communities are an excellent way for your customers to connect with each other, but they also need to connect with you. Consider hiring a community manager responsible for forging relationships, leveraging user-generated content, or rallying your customer base around a social cause related to your product or service.
Offer Elite Customer Service
Remember the last time you had a problem with a product? Did the company have live customer service representatives to listen to or answer your concerns? Did the company drag its feet on a refund or replacement? If not, that interaction probably left a bitter aftertaste, and customers may hesitate before doing business with that brand again.
To build customer loyalty, invest in 24/7 customer service online and over the phone. Have a generous and easy-to-understand return policy. When a problem is ambiguous, make it a company policy to favor the customer. A customer with a problem is an excellent opportunity to create a loyal fan.
Leverage Social Media
One of the best ways to inspire customer loyalty is to be authentic. The most successful brands use social media for more than simple advertising. They make emotional appeals, forge real connections, and make their audience laugh. They get their customers to relate to their brand like a living person.
Don’t focus too much on self-promotion to show authenticity on social media. Experts suggest a 70-30 split between advertisements and content that offers value or entertainment. For example, if you sell art supplies, 30% of your posts should push your product, while 70% should be fun content, such as 99 drawing ideas. You could also give customers a glimpse behind the scenes by livestreaming from the office or posting interesting photos from production.
Interact with your followers, even if it’s just acknowledging their comments. Be honest and straightforward, especially after you’ve made a mistake.
Offer a Customer Loyalty Program
Customer rewards programs are incredibly popular, and 80% of Americans belong to at least one. These programs are a simple, easy way to encourage repeat business and reward your most valuable customers.
Customers who give you the most business will have the highest expectations and hold you to the highest standards. Studies have found that loyalty program members who encounter problems get more upset than non-members. To launch a successful loyalty program, experts suggest making it easy for customers to join, offering exclusive perks to members, and providing a broad spectrum of rewards.
In the end, building brand loyalty requires a mix of common sense, humility, flexibility, and emotional intelligence. If you listen to your customers, heed their suggestions, and treat them the way they deserve to be treated, you'll be on your way to building a loyal customer base.
Conclusion: A Process and a Partnership
The relentless drive toward excellence makes it easy to slip into excessive self-focus. But your customers are as vital to your business’s success as anything you do internally. Treat your customers as you’d treat a partner because that’s essentially what they are— keep open lines of communication, be responsive, consider feedback carefully, and treat them like you want to be treated.