Earning true customer loyalty is a process and it takes a fair amount of time. Some results are not apparent for months and many times it requires internal business process changes, as well as complete culture changes – initiated at the highest leadership levels.
A study by the Temkin Group explains that many executives mistakenly see good, quality customer service as an afterthought. Bruce Temkin, Managing Partner of the Temkin Group states, “Many executives think of customer experience management as the icing on the cake of their business, believing they can slap on some good experience and everything will get better.” However, “Customer experience improvement requires broad cultural and operational changes as part of a multi-year journey,” Temkin explains.
If you’re ready to improve your customer loyalty, but aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few cultural and/or operational changes you can make.
Put employees first. Before a company can have loyal customers, it must first have loyal employees who feel they are making vital contributions to the company’s overall success. When they feel like a valued part of a team, instead of simply “one of the grunts,” their positive attitude will be contagious and your customers will be infected most.
Ask customers what they think. You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you stand. The results can sometimes be alarming, but give you a foundation of understanding you can build on. Once you’re on the path to loyalty, continue to request feedback. Getting “progress reports” from regular customers can help you gauge the success of each loyalty initiative.
Don’t ignore dissatisfied customers. Customers who have a negative experience turned around and handled positively will often be more loyal than customers who are merely satisfied with each visit.
Business is a relationship. You are, after all, dealing with human beings, and loyalty is as much an emotion as it is a behavior. A business relationship is a fine balance between the personal and the professional. Build solid relationships, but don’t take advantage your customers’ trust. The customer may not always be right, but they should always be treated with respect so they leave your dealership with nothing but positive things to say.
Implement A loyalty rewards program. A good loyalty program will help you understand your customers – the who, what, when, where, why of their shopping habits. This enables you to reward and incentivize your customers individually, encouraging them to keep coming back.
If you’ve already implemented a loyalty program, or just getting started, here are a few things you might want to consider.
Assign one employee with marketing responsibility. This can empower them to “own” the Rewards Program and oversee its ongoing implementation.
Hold regular trainings and reviews. Ensure each employee understands why the program is in place and what they can do to help it succeed. Additionally, make sure they are properly trained in pitching the program, as well as running it. Review the program initiatives and results with key management employees at a minimum of twice per month (initially it should be weekly).
Be flexible. Earning true customer loyalty will require some changes. Evaluate what elements are working best and be willing to make changes to those that are failing. Loyalty programs should be dynamic, adjusting to changes in their customers’ needs, the economy, etc.
According to the Temkin report, companies that achieved the highest levels of customer loyalty in 2019 include Kohl’s, Costco, eBay, Southwest Airlines and Vanguard, with Amazon coming in at number one. These are big brands with positive images that most of us will recognize without any effort. They have built their corporate culture and processes around principles of customer service, and have, in turn, earned our loyalty.