The lifetime value of a customer is one of the most important factors in sustaining the long-term growth of your business. Ideally, you want to build an army of loyal customers who keep coming back, so you can not only establish a strong customer base but also cultivate word of mouth marketing. This article will introduce the fundamentals of customer loyalty and give you tips for building a loyal customer base for your business.
1. Making customer service a priority
Make customer care a key part of your business strategy
- Effective customer relationship management means organising your business to focus on the needs of customers.
- Set out the levels of service you plan to offer your different customer types. For example, you might assign key account managers to your most profitable customers.
- Make sure customer-facing employees have all the information they need to serve customers. Give them powers to make certain decisions independently.
- Draw up procedures for handling customer contact. For example, standards for speed and courtesy when answering phone calls.
2. Essentials of customer care
Think of ways to make life easier for customers
- Try to save the customer inconvenience at every stage of the buying experience. For example, provide a simple procedure for returning unwanted goods.
- Concentrate on providing quality service in key areas. For example, customers often complain that deliveries fail to arrive on time.
3. Encouraging customer feedback
The more you know about customers, the better you can meet their needs.
Provide opportunities for customers to give feedback
- Ask new customers why they chose you over the competition, and existing customers what you could do better.
- Set up a customer hotline, and make sure the number is visible on every piece of communication you send out.
- Get feedback online by encouraging customers to engage on social media.
- Include an email response form on your website.
- Encourage customers with a concern to contact you. You may then have a chance to rectify an issue before it has escalated to a complaint.
- Thank customers for their feedback and let them know if you make changes as a result.
4. Customer communications
Plan your communications
- Regular interaction helps build trust and loyalty.
- Be clear about your aims. For example, you might want to turn your best customers into advocateswho recommend you. Your communications might aim to keep them informed, rather than sell.
5. Customer loyalty schemes
A successful loyalty scheme pays for itself by encouraging more frequent purchases. The most common loyalty schemes are based on offering rewards to loyal customers.
You can offer cumulative discounts
- A cumulative (or ‘retrospective’) discount gives customers money back whenever they reach specified spending targets.
- Retail businesses can offer loyalty cards which work this way.
- You may need to track customers’ purchasing activity to flag discounts as they are earned. If customers have to ask for the discount, the scheme will be less effective.
6. Employees and customer service
Make sure everyone gets customer care training
- Staff who have regular contact with customers should receive training on customer care. They are at the front line of your business and need to give an efficient, professional image at all times.
- Sales people should be trained to listen to the customer, so they sell intelligently, not aggressively.
- Everyone in the company should be taught how to handle calls and take basic enquiries.
- Make sure all staff understand how it will affect customers if they do not do their job properly. For example, production errors could delay the completion of an order.
7. Customer relationship technology
The tech you use could improve customer relationships
- Consider installing a customer relationship management (CRM) system so that all customer-facing staff can access customer details and records.
- Network your PCs so that any member of staff can retrieve customer information.
United Delivery Service is a small parcel regional carrier servicing Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. http://www.uniteddeliveryservice.com.