What every company wants and needs is return customers. Building a loyal client base is a huge part of developing a successful business. And as it takes up to five times the resources to find new clients as it does retaining existing ones, clearly repeat customers are a highly valued asset. But with so much competition in all areas of business and industry, what are the best ways to keep customers loyal? The ubiquity of social media has made it easier than ever to reach out to clients, and as a result the engagement we expect from businesses is changing. New and more personal levels of communication and customer service are expected, as well as unerring reliability and integrity. Let’s look more closely at ways to improve customer loyalty.
Personalise your communications
The rise of social media has had a profound effect on the way companies interact with their customers. Even huge companies, which seemed like remote and impersonal businesses in the past can directly engage with customers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms, often within minutes. Having a dedicated social media manager is a must for businesses, and is a great way to inform customers about special offers, rewards, new product rollouts and any service updates. When clients feel that they can reach out to a business without getting an automated telephone message or email, the customer experience is enhanced. Human contact is reassuring when you have a question or concern, and customer loyalty will reflect this.
Be loyal to your customers
Loyalty is a two-way street. By offering your clientele constant support, information and rewards, especially when you don’t have a product to sell, you show that you value their custom. Engagement with customers in this way encourages reciprocal loyalty. If you just suddenly appear with the hard sell when you are in a sales cycle it can send out the wrong message. By improving the client experience, and staying in contact, customers are more likely to engage when you actually have a product or service to offer them.
Rewards, gifts and thank-yous
Nothing builds loyalty more than gifts, even if it appears more as a gesture than anything else. Even simple things like branded fridge magnets, coffee mugs, key rings and pens can have a big impact, and will be a nice surprise for your client base. And, of course, branded items will keep your brand exposed to customers, always a marketing plus point. When a client puts business your way, something as simple as a personalised, signed thank you card will also foster brand loyalty. A thank you card will make your customer feel appreciated, and therefore more likely to buy from you in the future. Cards can also be sent out at Christmas or other holidays. Although not the most creative option, discount coupons also encourage repeat business, and can be a good way to reward loyal customers.
We touched on the value of social media to running your company. Being able to respond honestly, accurately and quickly to any customer complaints or queries helps to enhance your client’s experience, even if you are dealing with a problem or negative feedback. When a client feels like they are talking to a person, rather than a brick wall or an answering machine, they will come out of the exchange feeling that their voice has been heard, their query answered and their custom valued. Keep your customer service second to none, friendly, helpful, positive and efficient. Responding to customers should be a top priority, and one which can keep your clientele loyal.
If you run into supply problems, have issues with delivery, or have a real disaster such as a product recall, you owe it to your customers to be open, communicative and directly honest about how their service will be affected. Trying to mask problems or deflect blame will be much more damaging in the long run. Think about how you would feel as a customer, being told openly ‘we messed up, we’ll make it better’. The chances are you would be understanding. Problems happen, but when dealt with in the right way, you’ll be surprised how forgiving people can be.
Building a loyal customer base is the bedrock of any successful business. And both customers and companies benefit from loyalty. It doesn’t take much to turn your business into a communicative, open and caring enterprise that will have the customers coming back, time and again.