Customer Loyalty - “If you want loyalty, buy a dog”

Loyalty is defined as a strong feeling of support or allegiance.

In business relationships are often more critical to any possible form of Loyalty. It’s all about the “lived” experience and follow up service. This is the best way to engage with your customers and understand their needs.

Saying no doesn’t have to mean the loss of a customer. In fact, telling a customer “no” with great care, clarity and consideration can save face for everyone involved.

Understanding the industry in which you conduct yourself is paramount. The 5 P’s of marketing are controllable, but subject to your internal and external marketing environments. Combining these different marketing tactics to meet your customers' needs and wants is known as using a 'tactical marketing mix'.

Product

The product refers to all of the features, advantages and benefits that your customers can enjoy from buying your goods or services. When marketing your product, you need to think about the key features and benefits your customers want or need

Price

This refers to your pricing strategy for your products and services and how it will affect your customers. You should identify how much your customers are prepared to pay, how much mark-up you need to cater for overheads, your profit margins and payment methods, and other costs.

Promotion

These are the promotional activities you use to make your customers aware of your products and services, including advertising, sales tactics, promotions and direct marketing

Place

Place is about getting the products to the customer, and includes where a product or service is made, sold or distributed.

People

When you provide excellent customer service, you create a positive experience for your customers, and in doing so market your brand to them. In turn, existing customers may spread the word about your excellent service and you can win referrals, creating Loyalty.

Your goal is to generate and grow customer loyalty. Know your customers, analyse your competition, and make changes and improvements that will increase in customer satisfaction and you can create truly loyal customers. For example:

• Change your products or services when market conditions or customer needs change, don’t assume what worked in the past will work today;
• Focus on quality and customer service;
• Keep costs low and profit margins reasonable; customers will pay a fair price – or even a slightly premium price – if they feel the quality and service they receive justify that price. (No customer will be loyal if they feel taken advantage of.)
• Provide different solutions based on you customers need. One size does not necessarily fit all;
• Make sure all employees have been trained to provide outstanding service.

You want people to buy your product from you because they received outstanding service and the product delivered functionally and emotionally, not because of the price. As soon as you think you have Loyal customers because of your low price, you’ll be on the slippery slope towards losing them.

Always ensure that you are actively looking at other ways of enhancing your customer relationships. Just delivering brilliantly on the functional basics will get you 95% there alone.

Loyal customers spend more, provide free word of mouth promotion and visit more often. Yet small businesses often focus on chasing new customers as a way to improve the bottom line.

Here are a few simple ways to increase loyalty and build profits:

1. Make a connection with your customers;

2. Challenge your employees and ensure that they ALWAYS stick to their word;

3. Never overpromise and under deliver;

4. Anticipate their needs and alert them to new products before they ask the question;

5. Invest in the right customers;

6. Apologise when things go wrong and follow up with client complaints.

In almost every market and industry, customer loyalty is the best form of competitive advantage your company can possess for the long-term.

OlivierBarbeauThis article was written by Olivier Barbeau. Olivier, a chartered accountant, is Office Managing Partner and Member of the Executive Committee of Moore Stephens South Africa. Moore Stephens South Africa, which has been in operation since 2003, is part of the Moore Stephens International Network, a major accounting and consulting network with 299 independent firms, and 624 offices in 101 countries. The company strives to provide sensible advice and tailored solutions, assisting with the financial, advisory and compliance needs of their clients, and ultimately helping them to reach their commercial and personal goals.

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