Customer Loyalty: What is it and How do You Get it?
Alec Baldwin’s mom refuses to leave the East Coast to live closer to her children for one reason: Wegmans, an admittedly pretty incredible grocery store. She can’t imagine not having Wegmans in her life, so she’d rather continue to live alone in Rochester, NY, than move to sunny California to be with her sons. That’s some customer loyalty.
As a retailer, you want every single one of your customers to be like that, to value you above even great weather and their children. You want to inspire that level of customer loyalty in everyone.
Briefly, let me give my official definition for customer loyalty so that we’re all on the same page.
Customer loyalty means that a customer believes your products and service to be their best possible option, not just currently available on the market, but of all time. Customer loyalty does not mean someone who frequently purchases, though customer loyalty will inspire repeat purchases. It means a customer who is passionate about your brand, wants to share about it, and believes that they will never find a better retailer who does what you do.
That’s a pretty lofty goal, to be sure. But Alec Baldwin’s mom proves that retailers are 100% capable of achieving it. At the end of the day, achieving customer loyalty takes more than just meeting the customer’s needs. It means exceeding them – dazzling them. And to do this, you have to focus not just on the big things, but on the little things, too. Without further ado, I’ll share with you a few best practices that will help you exceed your customers’ expectations and achieve their undying loyalty.
1. Know what you stand for – and stand for it well.
A Harvard Business Review study shows that 64% of customers who love a brand love it because it represents their values. People care a lot about their causes and values, and they want to give their money to companies that care about those same things.
While your values can certainly be political – Thinx has built an entire business on political values – they don’t need to be. Wegmans values extraordinary customer service above everything. They believe that the best customer experience comes when Wegmans not only answers a need but answers it before you think of it. And Wegmans customers value being cared for so intensely, even at a store whose product is quite mundane.
Be sure you know what your store stands for, and represent those values well. Your customers will certainly thank you for it.
2. Train your staff to be experts in your products and provide top-notch customer service.
Customer service is very important to most people. A 2011 report shows that 3 out of 5 people are willing to switch brands for better service alone. That said, why not be the brand people switch to? (And then never leave.)
At the end of the day, the absolute, most important aspect of your customer service is your staff. Having the right people who have been well-trained is the make or break. Hire on passionate individuals who want to help. They don’t necessarily need much experience. Give them the training and the tools they need to provide top-notch service. Wegmans, for instance, gives each and every one of their people the authority to make calls on sensitive issues so that there’s no need to ever make a customer wait by calling a manager over.
You also want to make sure that everyone in your team is an expert on your products. Give them the chance to test your products out, even give them samples to take home and use themselves. Give them training on all the information you have about your products and answers to common questions.
Finally, make sure to continually provide staff with training. Even your best customer service reps need a refresher every once in a while.
3. Use the right technology.
These days software can do everything. Well, mostly everything. There’s no excuse to be using outdated methods anymore, that’s for sure. By putting the right technology in place, you can ensure that you are providing your customer with the absolute best possible experience. Wegmans is certainly a believer in using the right technology to give customers an amazing experience they can’t find elsewhere. They were one of the first stores ever to introduce a barcode scanning system in the 1970s, and they were also one of the first to implement ApplePay.
The technology you use doesn’t have to be flashy, either. It just needs to provide something the customer never knew they needed before. For instance, by utilizing dynamic receipt, you can include educational content right in a customer’s receipt. Imagine, as an outdoor sporting store, if your customer was able to open up their receipt to find a video showing them how to set up their new tent in five easy steps. With that small win, you’ve proven to a customer that you care enough about them that you’ll make sure their tent set-up is as easy as possible.
Customer loyalty is not something easily won. You have to be diligent about who your brand is and the service you are providing. But when you sincerely care about your customers and their satisfaction, it shows, and they will begin to care about you in return.