Customer Experience News & Trends

5 ways to strengthen customer loyalty

Customers can come and go as quickly as clicking the “next” button on their smartphones — that is, unless they’re rooted in their relationship with you.

Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar facility, online or a combination of both business models, customers can leave you faster than ever. But they won’t if you work to deepen relationships and increase your value to them.

So the question is, “How do we bring something new to the experience that isn’t there today that will make it worth their time to really pay attention to (the experience) and engage with it?” said Barry Kirk, senior director of digital strategies at Bunchball, a technology company.

Here are six ways to strengthen customer relationships and build loyalty that lasts:

1. Give them steps to climb

Most companies have loyalty programs these days. And most programs reward customers uniformly — i.e., “Buy this much, get this much.”

Some loyalty plans go a step further, allowing customers to move up in importance as they clearly increase their interest in the company.

For example, the Starbucks Loyalty Plan invites customers to sign on and get a free drink after the purchase of a certain number of products. Then, depending on your frequency of use and the amount of interaction across in-store and online channels, you step up to better rewards — free drinks on your birthday, discounts, promotions, etc.

2. Get customers involved your business

You can build engagement by giving customers some ownership in your products. Invite some to test products you have in the making or try a service you might offer.

It helps on two levels: They’re usually excited to try something different, and you get feedback on how a product might go over without incurring the expense of a full rollout. Plus, gathering feedback after they test what you have is a natural way to interact more with customers first-hand.

3. Make customers the center of your attention

Give customers an outlet and your attention. Host on-site or online events that allow them interact with other customers who share similar interests. Feature customers in your social networks and written materials. Highlight how they’ve succeeded using your products and what they enjoy about your business.

For an on-site event, consider this example: Tri-Ed, a technology company, invited customers to an event where they could eat, drink, mingle and take part in raffles for new, hot technologies such as digital cameras and iPads and televisions.

4. Make spreading the word fun

What’s better than engaging with current customers? Engaging with them and building a network of new customers.

Many companies do that by offering customers rewards for referring them to others. Some companies rely on social media to solicit and gather referrals. Try something like “Referral Wednesday,” when you give customers a one-time discount for passing along praise about and/or an invitation to connect on social media.

Another example: Julep, an online beauty supplier, rewards customers when someone clicks on a referral link from them to join the company’s reward program.

5. Give them more valuable information

Do more than provide customers with the products, services and the help they ask for. Become an information resource. As they grow to trust you, they won’t look for other sources for their products.

The key, of course, is to give them information that hits home in a way they can easily digest. Create and share information that makes them more efficient. Give them tips on how to use your products better, save time with your services and the best ways to navigate your company. Once you’ve established yourself as the expert in that arena, you can offer more information that’s useful.

For instance, Dollar Shave Club offers good deals on razors and related products. They also give customers interesting information — via its Bathroom Minutes — they can use to enhance their appearance, start conversations and test their knowledge. It’s all in good fun, but it makes the arrival of each order a little more interesting and valuable.

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