Business and Operations
Keeping Customers Loyal
By Joe Calloway
By Joe Calloway
Oct. 24, 2009 – The Acme Widget Company needed to increase revenue and
profits, so they undertook an initiative to attract new customers. They
launched a new advertising campaign and offered special deals to first time
buyers. They were initially delighted to see a significant and immediate
increase in new customers. Their joy was
short lived, however, as they saw revenue and profits actually decline.
The Acme Widget Company made a classic business blunder. As
new customers came in the front door, existing customers were leaving in
greater numbers through the back door. They had violated one of the most
important rules of business: never take
your customers for granted.
Even a small reduction in customer defections can significantly
increase profits. Because your fixed costs don’t change much regardless of how
many customers you have, the retention of existing customers is vitally important
in maximizing profit. Creating and strengthening customer loyalty must be a top
priority of any business if it is to grow and prosper.
Merely “satisfied” customers won’t cut it in today’s
marketplace. Countless studies have shown that satisfied customers will defect
in a heartbeat if they think they can get a better deal somewhere else. You’ve got to create completely satisfied
customers whose loyalty can’t be swayed no matter what your competition offers
Here are 10 essential tactics to keep customers loyal:
- Take a big picture
approach. Demonstrate how your product or service can help them accomplish
their big picture, long-term goals.
- Speak their language. Don’t
use your industry jargon, use theirs.
Show them that you have a depth of understanding about their
business that your competition just doesn’t have.
- Be a source of
intelligence. Dedicate yourself to finding new information and insights
that can help your customers succeed.
- Know who the customer is
today, not yesterday. Your customers constantly change. You have to know
how to serve your customers’ current needs, not their needs from a week or
a month ago. Stay current on changes in your customer’s situation.
- Point out what an incredible
deal they’re getting. What are you doing for your customers that provide
value, but that they may not know about? Let them know what you’re doing
that goes above and beyond the expected.
- Make it the first six
weeks again. The first six weeks of any relationship are magical. Everyone
loves everyone. Gestures of appreciation are made on a regular basis. Then
it starts to get old. We don’t try
as hard anymore to make a great impression. Go back to that first six
weeks. Make it magical again.
- Make them tell you how to
be better. Don’t ask your customers if they’re happy. Ask them how you can
be better. Make them tell you. They will appreciate that you are making
the effort and you will gain some information that can lock in loyalty.
- Find out who’s trying to
break you up. Your competitors are always trying to steal your customers
away. Find out what they’re whispering in your customers’ ears. Match or
beat any value that your competition if offering. (That doesn’t mean you have to beat
their price. You just have to beat
- Continuously audit your
easy-to-do-business-with factor. Look at every touch point you have with
your customers, including website, telephone calls, invoices, or anywhere
else you interact with your customer and see how you can be easier to do
business with. It’s the number one rated factor in business to-business
- Have a face-to-face,
heart-to-heart thank you session. Don’t discount the significance of
expressing appreciation to your customers. Get in your car or on a plane,
and tell them in person how very much you appreciate their business. It
could prove to be your best insurance against defection to a
In a business environment in which margins continually
shrink, the competition gets better, and customers become smarter and more
demanding every day, the fight to retain customers becomes critically important
to your success. While always working to
grow through the acquisition of new business, never let your focus waver in
terms of keeping the customers you’ve already got.
Remember that customers tend to leave because they didn’t
like the human side of doing business with a provider of a product or service. Be
sure that you are competitive with price and quality, and always be vigilant
about that human side of doing business. Maya Angelou spoke a great truth with
these words: “People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Joe Calloway is a
partner in Engage Consulting Group, and author of several best-selling business
books including the newly revised edition of “Becoming a Category of One,”
(August 2009, Wiley). Corporate heavyweights BMW, American Express, IBM and
many more have sought his insight into today’s marketplace. Joe provides
consulting to help companies accelerate their strategies and make their visions
reality. To purchase his books or hire him as a consultant, visit
www.joecalloway.com or call (615) 383-2249.