by Kent Covington
We’ve all heard it said that “it costs a lot more to gain new customers than to keep the ones you have”. It’s almost a cliché, but this nugget of business wisdom is repeated so often because it’s true! Here are 7 things you can do to cement customer loyalty in your store (in no particular order):
1. Turn negatives into positives. You probably don’t get many complaints, but when you do run into an unhappy customer, view it as an opportunity rather than a nuisance. Remember that the most important thing you can do is CARE! Have you ever had a bad experience as a consumer and the staff, or even the management seemed genuinely apathetic and unconcerned by your lousy experience? Make sure your customers know you genuinely care, and then go above and beyond to solve their problem. Nothing does more to cement loyalty than a problem that is resolved, quickly, thoroughly, and with care.
2. Begin regularly conducting surveys and ask your customers for feedback. No matter how well you know them and understand them, you will almost certainly learn something new when you make a concerted effort to ask them about their needs. Your customers will appreciate the fact that you’re listening and are in tune with their needs. And of course, when you are better equipped to serve the individual needs of your customers, it can serve to enhance loyalty.
3. Start rewarding and honoring your customers. Why not occasionally surprise your ‘regulars’ with a $10 Starbucks gift card or a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant. No of course, what you give away to a particular customer must be commensurate to what they spend with you. All clients will not be on an equal plane, but try to reward all of your regular customers in some way. Your best customers deserve special recognition. Perhaps you could reward certain clients with a “Platinum Customer Card” that represents certain privileges. You could offer Platinum Customer card holders extended delivery hours or discounts on new products. Let your best customers know that they’re part of an exclusive group of highly valued customers. Don’t worry… you can do it without making everyone else feel undervalued.
4. Develop a game plan to stay in regular contact with your customers. Out of sight = out of mind. Consider developing a monthly newsletter in which you could feature helpful tips to make your customers’ job easier, make them aware of new product releases, and more. Direct mail can also be a helpful tool to stay in touch. Some customers visit your store quite regularly. Others don’t. But don’t let any of them forget about you.
5. Customer service. Obvious right? Sure it is, but here’s the thing… good service isn’t enough. It has to be BETTER than your competitors’ service! Find out what level of service your competitors provide and then go a mile beyond that! We worked with a business that once drove an hour to deliver a five-dollar part. Was five bucks worth the drive? Of course not, but the client they were delivering to was one of their better customers, so they did it anyway. Sure, they lost a little money on the delivery, but after that simple act of business kindness, they had a customer for life. Remember also that little things can make a big difference. For example: Offering your customers complimentary coffee is nothing out of the ordinary. But offering FRESH complimentary coffee throughout the day IS unusual. Staying on top of the details lets your customers know you care.
6. Know your customers’ names and identify each of them personally. This has to be done intentionally. Direct your staff to look for unfamiliar faces and ask if they’ve been in your store before. If they have, ask them to remind you of their name. If not, introduce yourself and make sure to remember their name. If necessary, write it down when they leave and say it out loud. Don’t forget it. A personal greeting can go a long way toward developing customer loyalty.
7. Be Available. You may already offer a 24/7 emergency phone number, but if not, it’s certainly worth considering. The first time one of your clients uses this service (while your competitors are closed and unavailable), you will have earned a great deal of good will with your customer! Additionally, try to keep longer hours than your competitors. If they close at 4pm, consider closing at 5 or 6pm. If they open at 7am, perhaps you should open at 6am.
by Kent Covington