Getting To The Essence of Customer Loyalty

Author:  Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA
Founder & CEO
Age-Friendly Business®

Do they Love You — or Are You Just Convenient? 

I think about customer loyalty every day.  What are we doing right that keeps our members happy and loyal and what are we missing that causes others to leave?  When we do crack the ‘magic formula’ how can we then share the golden secrets with the businesses we serve?

The following is a personal story of my own conflict with loyalty and guilt.

I like to think of myself as a supportive and loyal person; and yet sometimes, convenience and price will win out over loyalty…(hence the guilt.) 
I wanted to explore when and why that happens, and to see how I can use that information in my own business, as well as the businesses we serve.

My husband and I recently moved to another community, and have started to forge relationships with local businesses. 
An entrepreneur myself, I like to support small businesses when I can. 

Looking for a new place to buy our supplements, we popped into a health food store and met the lovely husband and wife team who just purchased the small store. 
Nice people. 
Trying to make a go of this business. 

The 2 or 3 times I went into the store for purchases, I felt good about the customer experience and was pleased with myself for supporting this couple. 

The store is located on the short main street, and requires street parking not usually on my regular ‘errand route.’  
“That’s ok,” I told myself — “I’ll make the extra effort to find parking and zip into their store” …until I don’t…..

Sure enough, the temptation came dressed as convenience and price

Our large grocery store is attached to a small mall with a parking lot and access to multiple stores and resources. 
Within the mall is a health food store from a large multi-national chain. 
Now, do I get back into my car and drive to the health food store on the strip, or do I take the path of least resistance, and do all my shopping at once in the mall and perhaps even get some deals the larger health food chain can offer? 

Do your customers have to give up something to stay loyal to you? 
If so — you had better make their customer experience so exceptional, that they will be willing to get back in their car on a cold and miserable day, drive to your business, re-park, battle the elements, and maybe even pay more. 

What’s your version of sacrifice your loyal customers endure to remain true to you?

Let’s see how the small health food store can compete:

Convenience:  Given the location of the store, this couple probably cannot do much about the parking on the street.  I don’t patronize the stores close to them, so I’ll still have to make an extra stop to go into their store.  By the way, if you are competing on convenience alone, you are only safe until something even more convenient comes along!  (hmmm, Amazon anyone?)

Price:  Since this is a small operation without the benefit of mass purchasing, they likely couldn’t cut prices much more without jeopardizing all their profit margins.  Still competing on price?  You just reduced yourself to a commodity, and are vulnerable to the latest lost leader promotion.

So, their only currency to make and keep me loyal is my customer experience.

Anatomy Of An Exceptional Customer Experience

Once in their store, it is a welcoming experience. 
Full marks there. 
However; that is where the relationship ends. 
Out of sight — out of mind. 

At no time are they initiating a customer relationship with me.  
What brings me back has more to do with my personal commitment to supporting the concept of small business than their commitment to making me feel special and valued. What could they give me that I can’t get at the mall, and how can they offer that experience pro-actively to entice me back?

Here are 6 tips that come to mind.

1)  Find out more about me!  What are my health concerns and interests? 

2)  Make me feel noticed and special.  Remember my name and be truly excited to see me again.  Remember something about my life experience — recent move, husband’s name, pets, business, and notice if something is new or changed.

3) Personalize my customer experience.  Call me when my supplements are on sale.  Send me information and articles about the health issues I’m interested in. 

4)  Make it easy.  Ask me what keeps me away.  If the issue is convenience, explore auto-shipping/delivery options or other creative ways lock me into repeat business and eliminates my need to make an extra stop.

5)  Do something no one else does!  When you saw the cast on my foot and learned about how I broke my ankle and was having a hard time getting around, how about making a surprise delivery to my home.  (They could easily have dropped something off on their way home from work — perhaps something that contributes to bone mending?)  Boy would that have locked in my loyalty!

6)  Combine social connection with service.  Bring like-minded customers together and they will reinforce their commitment to your business.  Hold an evening event with a presentation from a local practioner — especially on topics I am interested in.  Get your customers together for something entertaining, educational and fun.  They will bond over your commitment to going the extra mile.

I’m sure you can come up with even more ideas for this couple.

Love, Hate or Indifference

Every day we make choices about how we spend our money. 

We talk about our outstanding customer experiences, and we talk about our horrible customer experience, and we tend to forget about the rest.

Think about the barriers your customers have to overcome to remain loyal to you, and what it would take for them to talk about the love!

Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA
Founder & CEO
Age-Friendly Business

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