Everyone’s talking about it, but what does it really mean?
When I think of customer loyalty, it’s more than just a few punches in a coffee card to get a freebie.
It’s more than a positive review, a repeat purchase, or a happy unboxing.
Yes, all of these things could be signs of a loyal customer, but why stop there?
Unwavering customer loyalty goes beyond these superficial acts. When customers are so loyal that they have an emotional connection with your employees, they are willing to camp out overnight to get their hands on your latest product release and want to tell all of their friends and family about your business.
That’s customer loyalty.
So how do you earn customer loyalty like this? What does it take?
Here are seven tips to help you out.
#1. Collect and apply feedback
Asking for customer feedback can be a tedious process with a low response rate. But the upside could be a loyal customer base.
By seeking out customer preferences about your business operations, products, support team, and services, you can better understand how to deliver an unforgettable experience.
And yes, by delivering a better experience, you will naturally earn greater loyalty from more customers. Simply by asking a customer what they want, and changing the way you operate your business because of their response, is powerful.
Your customers want to be heard. If they feel like they’re a part of your brand’s journey, you will create an emotional connection that will last a lifetime.
Interactive surveys are an effective way to gather customer feedback if they are framed in the right way – and they’re easy to create. For example, you can use ShortStack’s survey template to whip up a survey in a few minutes and start gathering customer feedback. Be sure to actively promote your survey to customers, make it interactive and easy to fill-in, and incentivize its completion.
ShortStack’s Survey TemplateView and Create Your Own
The results you get from a feedback survey could result in new payment plans, new or retired features, or a totally different approach to customer service. You never truly know what your customers think unless you ask them.
#2. Offer perks
If you want your customers to be loyal to you, then you should be loyal to them, too.
It never goes unnoticed when you offer a customer a special perk or reward for being loyal.
The good thing is? It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture to make an impact. A small discount, first look at a new product, or another exclusive offer can do the trick.
One way to offer perks to your loyal customers is to run a customer-only contest or giveaway.
Contests are most often used as a method of lead generation, to attract people to your brand that don’t yet know anything about it. However, they can also help you establish a closer connection with your current customers by rewarding them for their loyalty.
Put together a generous prize pool and launch a customer contest – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the benefits when it comes to their dedication to your brand. They’ll feel like a part of the clique. A special component in your brand’s community – rather than just another cog in the corporate wheel.
You could, for example, run a points-for-actions contest to encourage customers to actively recommend your brand to their friends and family.
Points-for-actions contestView and Create Your Own
#3. Over-deliver on the customer experience
Brands far too often overlook the customer experience. You take their money, send them a product, and that’s the end of it. But the exchange of goods or services should only be a small component of the overall experience.
The easiest way to develop a connection with customers and earn loyalty is to deliver an unforgettable customer experience on your first interaction. 86% of buyers are willing to pay more if they receive a great customer experience.
If you’re in eCommerce, for example, ship orders promptly, communicate regularly with your customers about the status of their order, customize the unboxing experience, and provide a simple and no-questions-asked returns policy.
Whatever your industry, go above and beyond to give your customers what they expect. Then add a little icing on top of the cake.
It’s the small extras that add up to a memorable experience and earn immediate loyalty from your customers.
Zappos, for example, started a “Customer Service for Anything” hotline to answer questions and connect with people during tough times. You don’t even need to be a customer!
Zappo’s Customer Service Line
#4. Be reliable (and responsive)
In a world with so many means of real-time communication, it’s amazing how often I feel let down by the responsiveness and reliability of brands.
You pay for an order, and the product isn’t in stock. You submit a support request and hear back from the company a week later when you’ve already canceled your plan. Or even worse, you can’t even find an easy way to contact a business and are left trawling through an FAQ page that doesn’t answer your question.
Don’t leave your customers hanging. Do as you say you will. Respond promptly to questions. Be accessible.
Even if you don’t have an answer, any response is better than none. Sometimes customers just need to know that there is someone on the other end of the transaction with their best interests in mind.
Reliability is underestimated in the customer loyalty stakes.
#5. Provide a customer loyalty program
I couldn’t write a guide about customer loyalty without mentioning a loyalty program.
The reality is, some customers want to be rewarded for their advocacy. If you want them to tell their friends about you, write a review, and buy your next product, make it worth their while.
In fact, the best customer loyalty programs are built on the back of these principles. They reward customers for far more than just purchases. I mean, wouldn’t you leave a review, refer a friend, or share your experience on social media if it meant you won prizes, discounts, and cash rewards?
The problem with loyalty programs is that they are too boring – like a punch card. ‘Boring’ works for a coffee shop when someone is buying a low-cost product from you every day, but it doesn’t cut the mustard for higher-priced and less frequent purchases. You need to incentivize loyalty with gamification and a points systems.
Consider Uber Rewards, for example. You earn points with every dollar spent on eligible rides or Uber Eats orders. They then have a tiered ranking system for customers; Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond – with each tier rewarding you with more savings, extra points, and other perks. It gamifies the experience and shows your status visually from the app.
Uber’s customer loyalty program
#6. Automate (but not too much)
Marketing automation is an essential part of any business operating in today’s digital world. But when it comes to customer loyalty, don’t over-do it.
If you try to automate too much, it’s bound to go wrong. At some point, your customers want to interact with a human being and feel connected to your brand. No one is going to be loyal to a bot.
Sure, there is no harm in using chatbots to answer common customer questions, automating follow up messages as a way to get customer reviews or feedback, and triggering personalized birthday messages based on your customer data.
But don’t neglect the human aspect of a business, especially when it comes to earning loyalty. A personal message to a customer has more power than any automated one ever will. In some cases, it can even turn disgruntled customers into advocates.
#7. Build a community
I touched on the human element of customer loyalty earlier in this article – but there is always more you can do.
People thrive on community. They like to be connected to others that share their hobbies, interests, and passions. If you can build a community of happy customers who all share similar interests, they will associate that connectedness with your brand. This breeds loyalty.
Be active on social media. In the absence of in-person events, host a live video stream and ask people questions. Create a Facebook Group for customers to share their love for whatever topic is most prominent in your industry.
If you facilitate a community of like-minded people who all advocate for your brand, it becomes an army that spreads the good word about your brand.
The design tool, Canva, for example, has a Facebook Group with over 16,000 members, where users and the Canva team share tips and advice for better using their software.
Canva’s Facebook Group
It’s impossible to sum-up customer loyalty in a single blog post. Loyalty is complex and multi-layered.
Not only do you need a great product or service, but the experience you deliver before, during, and after the economic exchange is just as important.
One thing is for sure, however, customer loyalty can’t be bought – it needs to be earned.
And while earning customer loyalty isn’t easy, it’s an irreplaceable competitive advantage.