Customer loyalty – it’s simple yet complex

Loyalty is hard to come by these days – even in the not for profit sector.  Our communities are becoming more sophisticated, informed and savvy about the services they chose to engage in.  For community based organisations the issue with developing customer loyalty is not attracting new customers – it’s more about how we retain them.

Our regular customers need to walk away from every type of interaction feeling better than the start.  Think about it this way – every time you meet someone’s expectation you have only partially engaged them for their next visit.  If something newer or different comes along they may tempted to ‘check them out’.  We need to continually exceed expectations so when other options come their way they think – ‘nah I love where I am now’ or the best case scenario is that they don’t even see your competitors – it’s not even on their radar to try something else.

Loyalty is about creating a sense of allegiance in your customers where they become your advocates rather than a transactional customer.  Here are five ways to promote a sense of allegiance in your customers.

  1. Customer Intimacy

Customer intimacy is about putting customers first above everything else; before your policies, your processes, other customers and even yourself!  It creates feelings of being special, of belonging and actively being valued.  It’s also about knowing what they want without them knowing themselves or even before they are even aware that they have a need.  It’s not about bombarding them with every product ahead of time – it’s about anticipation followed with ‘just in time selling’.

  1. Encourage and reward loyalty

Customers have a choice – they can come to you or they can go somewhere else.  Never forget this.  Encouraging loyalty can be as simple as booking their next appointment before they leave, introducing a loyalty program or frequent customer program, providing discounts or extra services, inviting them to special events that you know they’ll be interested in or simply personalising every interaction you have.  It’s the simple and little things that delight people – so it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.  Focus on doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.

  1. Use technology but…

…not at the expense of the human interaction.  Automated receptionists, artificial intelligence and chatbots are becoming more accepted.  Technology can fast track customer interactions, but if they’re too hard to navigate people will give up never to return.  Here’s a tip – make sure the technology works the way you want it to!  If you’re not sure always allow your customers the option of breaking the loop and speaking to a real person.  Ask them for feedback about their experience and if possible fix the issue.  If they hang on long enough to talk to you the least you can do is respect their time and effort to find out why it didn’t work for them.  But first, bend over backwards to make up lost ground while you have them!

  1. Deliver on everything

Your products AND your service AND social responsibility AND your employees AND your financial sustainability AND your research and development functions…the list goes on.  The essence of your organisation depends on having commercial and community savviness rolled into one.  Your brand is a direct reflection of how well this is done.

  1. Feedback loops

Not everyone complains – most people walk away never to be seen again and chances are they’ll rather tell other people than tell you about their negative experience.  We need to embrace negative feedback and respond to it as a learning opportunity, not a witch hunt to allocate blame.  The ability to embrace complaints with no filter is easier said than done.  It is however a direct reflection of your leadership capabilities and your team culture.  No-one wants to hear bad news stories – but we have to develop a culture that embraces feedback where we take the good with the bad.  Develop feedback loops in your customer’s journey and encourage them to use them, warts and all.

This is not a list per se.  We are trying to achieve long lasting emotional connections with our customers and this is done by viewing these five things as a living breathing system.  While each of these can stand alone, it’s when we have all five going at the same time that the magic happens.  It’s like putting together the perfect meal. When you stand back and look at the plate in front of you, you go – wow!!!

If you would like to know how we can support your organisation with developing a strategy for customer loyalty, please contact our consulting team,

Andrea Collett
Former Senior HR Consultant

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