15 Ways To Build Customer Loyalty (Excerpt from “How To Start Your Own Business”)

    June 30, 2004

There was a time when customers were fiercely loyal. Today, however, customers seem to have a “what’s in it for me” attitude, and will jump from one merchant to another to “find the best deal” or whatever will satisfy their needs at that moment. They do business on a one-way basis. Yet, there is always the lure of “customers for life” possibility.

Companies, large and small, are working harder than ever to become 100% customer sensitive as they attempt to gain and keep their customers. Yet, the customers still leave.

The realistic goal is to try to capture and retain the customer for a period of time and build “limited” loyalty. We want to give you 15 suggestions for “building” customer loyalty. Be implementing as many as possible that pertain to your particular type of business, the better chance you have of keeping that “fickle” customer.

1. Provide the very best service! Educate the customers on how you provide the best service, then do wat you say you’ll do. Show enthusiasm for going out of your way to prove that you’re highly service-oriented.

2. Provide toll-free telepone access. Those that provide 800 number service are letting their customers know that they are making it as easy as possible for them to communicate with the business.

3. Get customer feed-back. Listen to what the customers are saying. Use their suggestions to help shape your business.

4. Say “thank you” at every opportunity. Let the customer know that they are noticed and appreciated. Show appreciation. Let your customers know that you want their business. Customers want to know they are appreciated.

5. Respond promptly. Address customer complaints immediately. For every customer that complains, there may be many that remain silent, but disappear as customers. It is very important, therefore, to satisfy those that do complain, in order to try to keep them as customers. Help your customers solve their problems better than anyone else.

6. Stay in touch with your customers. Send helpful information to them. A one-page “newsletter” or “bulletin” can do wonders for retaining those precious customers. Add a couple of “specials” to the information sheet; don’t make it all ads.

7. Send holiday “thank you” cards. Since Christmas cards can sometimes “get lost in the shuffle”, why not try sending a “thank you” card at Thanksgiving?

8. Offer more “freebies” than your competitors. This is especialy valuable to mail order or direct mail businesses. A “freebie” with a high perceived value, can increase the sale of almost any product or service.

9. Be enthusiastic. An up-beat, positive attitude will let the customer know you are happy they are doing business with you.

10. Answer the telephone promptly and don’t act hurried. Acting hurried raises the customer’s anxiety level and gives them the idea that you really would rather be doing someting else instead of talking to them.

11. Recognize your faithful long-term customers. The customers that keep buying and keep ordering from you deserve special treatment. Offer “preferred customer” specials that you send out to only those faithful customers.

12. Practice “niche” marketing. Look for markets which best match your company’s products and services. Then strive to become a big fish in a small pond. Competition is generally less intense in niche markets and your strong position will fend off unwanted intruders.

13. Use a voice mail or answering machine for after hour calls. By making this service available to your customers, they can complete a request or ask their question and realize that it’s taken care of so they won’t have to think about calling the second time the next day.

14. Return all phone calls. The voice mail or answering machine won’t provide any customer service at all unless you return the calls, and return them promptly. Develop a reputation for returning calls.

15. Increase your promotional efforts. Keep your name in front of the people. The more your name becomes a “household word”,] the more business will come your way. Small gifts such as refrigerator magnets, pens or coffee mugs with your logo on it will bring your name to mind every time the customer uses the item.

The key to success is to go on the offensive, taking action immediately to demonstrate your initiative to gain the most favorable position in the minds of all potential customers. By doing this, you will see victory, success and ever- increasing profits.

Sarah J. Doyle is author of over 25 business, sewing and how-to
books and owner of 5 business, sewing and craft websites.
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