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Pinellas Park, Florida, United States
I founded Core Business Solutions with the goal of helping business owners improve operating results, add value, and recapture the energy and passion that was present when the business was new. We also have the expertise to assist start-up companies create the foundational structure needed to provide the best opportunity for the business to grow and prosper in uncertain economic times. Our goal is to help the business entrepreneur/owner, through mentoring and coaching, develop or enhance managerial skills while providing that independent and objective advice and expertise usually provided by a board of directors.
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ten Ways to Help Improve Customer Loyalty

Do you even have a specific plan for building customer loyalty?
Have you truly given the subject much thought? In most successful businesses 20% of their customers generate 80% of their volume.
If you currently retain 60 percent of your customers and you start a program to improve that to 70 percent, you'll add an additional 10 percent to your growth rate.

Because of the high cost of landing new customers versus the high profitability of a loyal customer base, you might want to reflect upon your current business strategy.

Here are ten ideas to help you improve customer loyalty:

1. Product Awareness. Know what your steady patrons purchase and keep these items in stock. Add other products and/or services that accompany or compliment the products that your regular customers buy regularly. And make sure that your staff understands everything they can about your products. This is crucial. Cross selling is easy if the product knowledge has been provided to your employees. Be sure your staff knows that they are 'expected' to offer the cross sale item. Train them.

2. Reliability. If you say a purchase will arrive on Wednesday, deliver it on Wednesday. Be reliable. If something goes wrong, let customers know immediately and compensate them for their inconvenience. The best way to handle this is to always under-promise and over-deliver. If you know it will take 3 days to deliver your product, tell the customer it could take 'up to 5 days'. When you deliver in 3 or 4 days your customer will be pleasantly surprised and a more loyal customer.

3. Be Flexible. Try to solve customer problems or complaints to the best of your ability and as quickly as possible. Excuses — such as "That's our policy" — will lose more customers than most anything else you can do. Remember- "The customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer." Use the 'Golden Rule' here.

4. Use People over Technology. The harder it is for a customer to speak to a human being when he or she has a problem, the less likely it is that you will see that customer again. In the name of cost savings companies have automated much of customer service. This will cost more in the long run with lost customers in the name of efficiency.

5. Know Their Names. This another part of the 'human' equation to business success. Remember the theme song to the television show Cheers? Get to know the names of regular customers or at least recognize their faces. Welcome them to your business and thank them for coming.

6. Communicate. Here's that 'human' thing again. I call it "stirring the pot" It's also known as Appreciation Marketing. Whether it is an email newsletter, monthly flier, a reminder card for a tune up, or a holiday greeting card, reach out to your steady customers. This tells your customers you are thinking of them. This creates a positive comfort level in your customer base.

7. Customer Service. Go that extra mile and meet customer needs. Train the staff to do the same. Customers will remember being treated well and return.

8. Employee Loyalty. Loyalty works from the top down. If you are loyal to your employees, they will feel positively about their jobs and pass that loyalty along to your customers.

9. Employee Training. Train employees in the manner that you want them to interact with customers. Empower employees to make decisions that benefit the customer.

10. Customer Incentives. Customers need a reason to return to your business. For instance, because children outgrow shoes quickly, the owner of a children’s shoe store might offer a card that makes the tenth pair of shoes half price. Likewise, a Hair Salon, Massage Therapist or Auto Repair Shop may give a 30% discount off all services on every 3rd visit to any regular customer. A simple "Loyalty Card" program can work well here with simple tracking. In personal services businesses, keep a file on each customer to track their prior purchasing habits and preferences. Train your employees (& yourself) to review these files before a customer comes in for their next appointment. Ask them how their past purchases worked out. That 'human' personal touch will seperate you from your competition.

So to sum it up, creating customer loyalty is critical to the success of most businesses. Make sure the culture of you company/business is customer friendly and 'human'. Plan now to implement startegies to improve your customer retention in 2010.

In about 2-3 weeks or so I'll review another subject designed to provide business owners with information they can use to help them work "on" their business.

Until Then : Live Simply, Speak Kindly, Care Deeply & Love Generously.

All The Best,
Walt Morey an Executive Business Advisor Accredited by the Institute for Independent Business

Core Business Solutions Advice