In business, as in life, loyalty is a big deal. Loyal customers who buy products and services from you repeatedly, rather than from other competitors, are a tremendous asset. Loyal customers can impact profitability, but also and more importantly — your reputation.
It is not enough that customers are satisfied with a single transaction. What you want is for them to come again and share their positive shopping experience with friends. However, what you may not know is that customer satisfaction and customer loyalty have different meanings.
The former, customer satisfaction, refers to something you can measure at the end of a process, whether it’s a sale or provision of a service. The latter, on the other hand, talks about the behavior your customers manifest after being continually satisfied with your products or services. This can be reflected on how frequently they purchase from your company and how they feel about your services.
Ideally, every small business should aim to turn satisfaction into brand loyalty and advocacy. So, if you want to turn satisfied buyers into devoted customers, here are five practical ways to gain their loyalty.
Keep customers coming back.
Developing top of the line products or services is just the beginning of customer satisfaction. In fact, after ensuring high quality measures it is essential to address how you can influence repeat purchases.
For example, aside from basic products, include services that will make their use more efficient and fulfilling. This can come in the form of tools, downloads, upgrades, accessories, etc. Make customers feel that there is something more to look forward to after they purchase something from you. And while not all the add-ons are indispensable, your customers will be pleased knowing that you’re covering the bases.
Get a little personal.
Customers like to be reminded of their worth—in fact, everybody does. This is why you should let customers know you appreciate them and their patronage. But how can you do it without being creepy? Start to build relationships with customers through social media. This is a place, albeit virtual, where customers disclose many personal details such as birth date, educational background, photo albums, etc.
If your business is active on social networking sites, encourage customers to connect with you. Communicate genuinely by posting a greeting on their pages and express gratitude for their support. Don’t forget to offer customers a way to keep in touch via an email list and send Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas greetings via email or postcards in the mail.
Listen to what customers have to say.
Aside from getting special treatment, another thing your customers want from you is empathy. Listen to them, whether online or offline. Whether it’s to commend you or to file a complaint, your customers deserve a share of your attention.
Customer feedback will tell you how you can improve overall business performance. So, don’t hesitate to ask customers for comments and criticism. Then, thank them when they give it to you. Study their opinions and see how you can factor in their feedback when making product improvements.
Consider a customer’s competitive side.
Everybody likes getting freebies. In fact, many e-commerce companies regularly hold contests — not just because they love their customers so much — but because the strategy aids in turning visitors to customers. You too can hold your own online competition or sweepstakes.
Reward customer loyalty.
If you really want customers to remain loyal, you need to invest in them. For instance, consider offering a membership-only discount on selected products and services. Or create customized merchandise to giveaway as freebies. Meanwhile, insert a small gift card with every purchase. Whatever you decide to do, make sure your customers feel appreciated.
Ideally, most small businesses would love for every client to make repeated purchases, but you can only do this if you’re able to turn them into loyal customers first. Start building brand advocacy and loyalty with the consistent use of these tips.
Lionel Luigi Lopez is a business writer, entrepreneur and a musician. He is also an active blogger and marketing strategist. He runs a small business in Manila and still active in music.