If you are a business owner, you understand the importance of customer loyalty. Although both new and returning customers are important, it is less costly to keep current customers than to attract new ones. If your current customers are happy, they will spread positive recommendations about your business, without you having to spend your advertising dollars.
Regardless of the type of business you offer, your customers want to feel valued. They want to know that their patronage is appreciated, and that you do not take them for granted. If customers do not feel valued, they will likely choose to do business at another location.
Most business owners agree that loyalty is vital, but it can be difficult to encourage customer loyalty, especially if you are working with a very limited budget. If you do not have unlimited funding for a loyalty program, then you have to be creative with ways that you show appreciation to your customers.
The most important way to ensure customer loyalty is to make sure that every employee exhibits excellent customer service. From the receptionist to the CEO, each employee must make the customer feel valued and appreciated. You should periodically hold in-house customer service seminars, where you train employees in the art of exceptional customer service. Do not underestimate the power of a smile and a kind word to your customers.
Even the most successful businesses will sometimes disappoint a customer. You cannot avoid all mistakes, but you can control how you respond when a customer has a complaint. First, listen carefully to the customer’s issue, and avoid getting defensive. It can be difficult to make an on-the-spot decision, so tell the customer that you appreciate their feedback, and will be in contact within 24 hours with a solution. This gives you time to communicate with your team, hear their side of the story and make a wise business decision. In most cases, a solution is possible that will appease the customer without hurting your bottom line.
Some of the most effective customer loyalty programs are creative and unexpected. Customers love good surprises that show them that their business is valued. For instance, if you own a restaurant, you can hold free Family Night events for your patrons. On Family Nights, kids’ meals can be offered for free or at a reduced cost. Families also enjoy entertainment, so you can hire an inexpensive performer, such as a magician or balloon artist, for the evening. Many businesses have found that they actually make more money during Family Nights, since it attracts customers to your restaurant.
Small promotional items can also be used to show your appreciation. The next time a customer enters your store, send them on their way with a free pen, candy, or another item that features your business name. Everyone loves getting something for free!
Each business has a different customer base, so only you know what types of promotions your customers will appreciate the most. It is also helpful to survey your customers about what you are doing well, and what can be improved.