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Instilling customer loyalty

My husband was recently given a new Playstation 3 through a promotion from one of his suppliers. So of course, this meant a trip to our local game shop to buy a new game to play on it. No, we didn’t go to EB Games or JB Hi-fi. Not even Big W or Kmart. We went to a small local business called Sunbury that my husband has been a customer of for the past 21 years.

Yes folks, you read it right. 21 YEARS. He has been buying games from this shop since he was a teenager. From his Atari console (remember them?) to his most recent game purchase for the new PS3, he has purchased them all from this one store. Sure, we’ll go to the big stores and have a look at new releases, but we will always go to Sunbury to make the actual purchase.

As business owners, we all dream of finding that client who is loyal and stay with us for years. In today’s competitive environment, price seems to be the key to getting new customers. Consumers are given so much choice that they can afford to shop around and tend to go the business that gives them the best price. If they think that what you’re offering is too expensive or someone else gives them a better price, they switch.
For anyone providing a service or selling a product, this means that it’s now becoming more difficult to retain customers for the long term. So I decided to find out from my other half what keeps him coming back and how this store has managed to instil such unswerving loyalty in such a fickle industry.

As he tends to ramble on, I’ll just give you the main points that he came up with:

Relationship

My husband has known the husband and wife team who own the business since he was 15. He has seen their 3 daughters grow up from when they were babies – the oldest of them is now in her final year at university. They have also seen our relationship grow from when we started dating, to when we got married, when our son was born up to now, when he’s just about to start school.

Once you have a relationship with your customer, it’s becomes much harder to go to someone else than it would if that relationship didn’t exist. In some cases, it almost feels like a betrayal (I know my husband felt bad the couple of times he went elsewhere for a game). This may be why it’s so easy to change Telcos or insurance providers. Their customers are treated so impersonally that as a result, the customers do not have that engagement and feel no remorse for switching to another provider.

Get to know your customer. By taking an interest in them, you show that you’re not treating them like another number. If you have a large number of customers, keep a database with details like their birthday, when they first purchased from you, kids birthdays, spouses’ birthdays, etc. Send a card/e-card or make a quick phone call on these days.

Exceptional customer service

When we walk into Sunbury, we are greeted with huge smiles, handshakes, kisses and hugs for the little one. While we’re in the store, we talk, they tell us about new games coming out, which new releases are popular, and what else has been happening with them and their family. Regardless of whether we buy anything or not, we are treated the same. Even if the store is busy, we are always looked after. In fact, there are times when we have to tell them to serve other people in the shop because they’re busy talking to us!

Making your customer feel important is crucial to your business because they ARE important. Remember your first customer/client and how excited you were? How much did you value that client? Did you overservice them to make sure that they were happy? I know I did. By treating every customer as if they’re your only customer will go a long way in building that loyalty.

Rewards

Our loyalty is appreciated, and this shows. We are given discounts when they can provide it and free stuff. Last visit, we were given a huge 25th Anniversary Super Mario Bros poster for my son (who is obsessed with all things Mario). We are also given an endless supply of styluses for my son’s DS at no charge. Compared to this, why would I go anywhere else?

I give my clients a fee discount when they exceed a certain number of hours within each billing cycle. Sometimes when I find a good book, I will give a copy to a particular client who I know will like it too. This Christmas, each client will receive a present that’s been picked especially for them.

We all love surprises. By giving your customers rewards, even small ones, this shows them that you appreciate their business. The effect is even greater when it’s unexpected.

Customer

Loyalty may be a personality trait. My husband is a serial loyal customer; he has been with the same hairdresser for over 10 years and for the past 5 years, we have been going to the same cake shop as well.

Create a profile of your perfect customer and find what other businesses/services they use. Partner with these businesses to attract these serial loyal customers by offering rewards for each other’s customers.

Remember – humans are creatures of habit. From what I’ve observed, not just from my husband, is that in order to get regular customers to become loyal customers you need to become part of their routine. Integrate your business within their schedule and you become a part of their life and not a separate entity.

So from tomorrow, why not take the steps to find not just a customer, but a loyal customer.

Good luck!

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