Customer loyalty is defined as, “attracting the right customer, getting them to buy, buy often, buy in higher quantities and bring even more customers.” As companies develop and refine their respective plans of attack for loyalty, the focus is typically centered on rewards and offers, breadth of product offering and unique services or customer benefits. Executive level concerns loom around costs and ensuring that any monies dedicated towards driving consumer loyalty yields an incremental return on investment. Focus is typically on net new strategies; the investment, the offer, the plan/campaign, and the results, but isn’t customer service the foundation of any customer loyalty initiative?
Developing and cultivating loyal customers begins with service. Whether you have a brick and mortar business selling consumer products or a B2B service focused organization, ensuring that the customer experience your team provides, from a checkout to a service call or return, is paramount to your reputation and developing long-term loyal customers or ‘raving fans’. Think about it – a customer visits your store regularly, purchasing twice as much product as that of a ‘non-loyal’ customer, but on one occasion they engage with a sales assistant that is distracted, impersonal and rude. The experience is lackluster and, for most customers, it’s one that will leave a long-lasting impression. Depending on the relationship and the individual customer, they may or may not address it with a manager or you, as the owner, but they will definitely remember it, and it’s likely to impact their overall loyalty with your business.
Either before you design and launch a new loyalty campaign or initiative, or in concert with those efforts, it’s imperative that front-line employees be connected to the overarching goals and objectives, whether that be in the form of performance based incentives or merely the communication of the goals, it’s critical that this group be connected to and invested in your target customers, both for acquisition as well as retention. According to a 2012 Forrester Research survey of customer experience leaders, 76 percent of respondents noted that their employees do not share a consistent, clear image of their target customers. And, that responsibility doesn’t lie with the employees, but rather the leaders. What’s often missed is the clear communication and integration of top-level strategies around customer service and the value of loyal customers to everyone within the company; especially front-line service and sales team members.
A focus on loyalty is critical to the success of any business, but understand that it’s more than an initiative or external campaign. At the core are your internal infrastructure and the engagement of your front-line team. Turn your team into your loyalty ambassadors and ensure that they understand your objectives and are excited about their role in achieving success.