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3 Simple Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty

Brian Cantor

Transforming the customer experience is not an easy process. From retraining agents, to investing in new systems, to establishing new success metrics, the pathway to an optimal experience is a long and arduous one.

A business, consequently, cannot create the perfect experience overnight.

Through three simple and painless processes, that business can, however, dramatically—and quickly--increase customer loyalty.

Central to all three processes is the idea of valuing the customer as an individual.

When customers feel valued by a brand, they come to trust that brand. They come to know that while every aspect of the experience may not be perfect, the business constantly has its customers’ best interests at heart.

The result is a meaningful connection between brand and customer. While it is not unbreakable, that connection is profound enough to drive an increase in potential spend and a decrease in risk of attrition.

The three simple steps follow:

Reward loyal customers – for their loyalty

Businesses constantly offer promotions, bonuses, free trials and coupons for new customers. Their offers to existing customers are rarely as exciting. They are certainly less frequent.

When such promotions do emerge, they tend to exist in the form of "rewards programs." Customers earn access to the rewards by crossing a specified purchasing threshold.

Such programs, while welcome, are wholly transactional in nature. Instead of demonstrating a personal connection to a customer, they define him – and his worthiness of rewards – in terms of his purchases.

In striving to create—and reinforce—a more personal connection, customer-centric businesses reward loyalty itself. They tell occasionally tell customers a meal is "on the house" as a token of goodwill. They offer customers discounts and free upgrades for "being so loyal." They give customers special access to new products because they "know they’ll love it."

The strongest form of customer loyalty emerges when the customer feels uniquely valued by the brand. Gearing rewards and offers to the specific customer – rather than to his transaction history – is a surefire way to demonstrate that value.

If you instead treat the customer like every other customer, you can expect him to treat your business like any other business.

Take customer feedback seriously

To dismiss or demean customer feedback is to send the message that the customer’s voice does not matter.

The more loyal the customer, the more insulting the message.

Familiar with the brand experience, loyal customers know what to expect in terms of quality and efficiency. They possess a credible perspective when celebrating what is working -- and when criticizing what is not.

Moreover, by demonstrating ongoing support for the brand, such customers have demonstrated their worth in clear, irrefutable, financial terms.

Credible and tied to clear financial value, feedback from such customers possesses worth beyond the abstract "voice of the customer" concept. Dismissing such feedback—and the seemingly obvious value it possesses—represents a particularly harsh slap in the face.

It confirms that the businesses see customers exclusively in terms of their current transactions.

If that is the case, why should customers adopt a longer view? Why should they see businesses as anything more than the entity executing the current transaction?

Ditch the script

Every morning, I buy a protein bar – and sometimes gum – from a nearby pharmacy. Each time, I interact with the exact same cashier.

Despite clearly recognizing me, she never departs from the generic checkout script. Each day, without fail, she asks whether I have a bonus card. Each day, I confirm that I do and proceed to type my account number into the system.

Why is she still asking? Why isn’t she using the knowledge she has to personalize the checkout experience? The situation may not warrant a deep, intimate conversation, but what is stopping her from saying, "Type in your bonus card" or "Do you want to use your bonus card" instead of "Do you have one?"

By adhering to a generic script, the agent sends the message that I am a generic customer. And if I’m not special to the business, why should the business be special to me?