It is well known in the business world that it costs a minimum of five times more to gain a new customer than it does to keep one. While the time, effort, and resources may be worth it from time to time, it is more prudent to foster loyalty in your customers.
One of the main benefits of this is that customer loyalty can significantly reduce the time and money required to acquire new business. Your loyal customers will do all the hard work for you.
This doesn't mean to say it isn't any effort at all. It will take some effort, and some expense, as well as fundamental changes to the way your business operates. All of it, however, will be of great benefit for your customers, and your business.
So how do you foster this loyalty in your customers?
1. Use their name
If they're long term and/or regular customers, you should know their name. If you don't, there's no harm in asking. Not only will it provide you with opportunities down the track, it will show them that you care about them, not just as a customer, but as a person in their own right.
As often as possible address them using their name. It makes a person feel special.
2. Treat them like they're special
Speaking of feeling special, introduce a program that makes them feel special. This may be similar to the special offers and discounts you give to your mailing list - but make this one more exclusive, with more incentive.
You may even introduce two-tier loyalty program; one for new customers, and one for those who are regulars.
Use post instead of email to send them invitations or specials no one else has access to. Take it one step further and send them birthday cards, or other special occasions cards.
3. Thank them for their loyalty
Sending a thank you card, or special thank you gift "just because" is incredibly powerful. Randomly select a customer, or group of customers, to show your appreciation.
How you do this is up to you and your business. What is important is that you think outside the box, and be genuinely grateful.
4. Provide real service to your customers
Recent years have shown a dramatic decrease in customer service, so it's not going to be too hard to provide a superior service. You don't need to be an excessively expensive, high class, snooty business to give great service.
What is important is that you really do serve your customer; smile, be polite, be helpful, and as much as possible try to anticipate their needs. Rid yourself and your business of meaningless platitudes, and provide your customer with value.
Ask them questions, find out what they want, and avoid the standard sales assistant scripting.
5. Communicate - often
Regular contact with your customers keeps you front of their mind, but also shows you care about them. Using some of the tactics already mentioned; sending thank you and birthday cards, introducing exclusive loyalty programs etc., is just part of it.
Let them know about sales or offers before they're made public, send them regular newsletters or updates, and even include some personal information, to help them get to know you.
Communicating on a personal level helps to strengthen connections and relationships - and customer loyalty.
6. Make it your culture
Your customers, and customer service, need to be more than a goal or value on a poster on the office wall. Make it a core value of your business, and ideally begin to live and breathe it.
The aim is to make it simply part of the culture of your business, and habitual as unlocking the door in the mornings, and the phrase you use to answer the phones during the day. Great customer service isn't a "thing" that has done to done during the day, it's just something you do, subconsciously.
7. Foster loyalty in your employees
Whilst you're looking after your customers, make sure you don't neglect your employees. They have the capacity to make or break your business, and, as far as the customer is concerned, they are your business.
Although paying them well seems to be the most obvious way to keep your staff, it's not everything. Recognising and rewarding them for good work, and providing them with the tools they need to do their job well, goes a long way.
Including them in creating the culture and values of your business, and listening to their feedback gives them an element of ownership. This, alone, can create employee loyalty, and a desire to serve the customer well.
Ultimately, it is your customers that have go you to where you are now. Let them know how much you appreciate them for it, and they'll take you places you possibly never considered going.