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PORTER: Keep customers loyal with values and partnerships

In a 24/7 digital world today, keeping customers loyal is anything but easy. Many choices. Competitive prices. Similar feature and benefits. What’s to keep customers from continuing to do business with you anyway?

Aside from always keeping up with customer needs, there are two things you can do today to boost customer loyalty in a big way: provide value and create a partnership.

Back in the 1980s, General Motors lost 11 points of market share because they took their eye off customer loyalty. It took years for them to get those customers back, and many never returned.

Let’s take a look at both value and partnership and provide some tips on how you can get better at both.

Customers see value when they feel they got their money’s worth. Return on investment. When customers are happy with these areas, they see value in the goods or services you provide.

In my book “Quest for Loyalty,” value was one of four key attributes that customers looked for in making a decision to be loyal to a particular company. In fact, of the hundreds of interviews I conducted, value came up time and again as a key contributor to customer loyalty.

In addition to partnership, service and quality rounded out the loyalty attributes.

My definition of value is whatever cost benefit, payback, productivity gain or other benefits customers expect from a company when they do business with them.

Are you surrounding your products or services with the benefits customers expect these days? If you are, it’s my bet that those customers will come back again and again for the value they see from you.

Help customers be more productive, and they’ll see the value you provide to them.

For companies in the service business, helping customers be more productive or efficient in what they do is all about value. New software or apps that contribute to helping solve a customer’s problem provide great value and keep customers coming back over time.

What are your products or services doing today to help customers be more efficient in their personal lives or their business?

Find ways to ramp up a customer’s productivity, and I guarantee you a loyal customer who’s coming back for more.

Customers say three characteristics embody the best partnerships. They include a partner attitude, honesty and trust.

Long-term loyalty is all about partnership. What are you doing in your business to be more than just another merchant for customers today? Are you doing everything you can to earn their trust?

If your customers see you as just another supplier in a crowded marketplace, how can they see you as a partner with them for the long term? Customer loyalty depends on great partnerships.

Customers see you as a partner when you’re easy to do business with.

Business hours convenient to customers. A robust online presence. Transparent business practices. All shout loud and clear that you are easy to work with. And this matters a lot to customers, especially if you are to win their loyalty.

Have you ever tried to return something? Have you ever had questions about a product or service and need to speak with a live person? Then you know about how easy — or not — it is to work with a company.

Today, if customers find you difficult to work with in virtually any way, my bet is that they are looking for somewhere else to take their business.

Do everything you can to let customers know that you are the best company around to work with, and that effort will translate into more long-term business.

Customer loyalty is tough to earn. Pay attention to value and partnership in everything you do.

To help customers see your value, make sure they always feel they got their money’s worth. In addition, do everything you can to help customers be more efficient and productive when they do business with you.

Because customers look for a partnership if you are to earn their loyalty, show them you are more than just another merchant through your honesty and in earning their trust. Making it as easy as possible to work with you is another big part of this.

William Porter has published books on customer experience and employee engagement and speaks regularly at business schools. Contact him at bpwilliamaporter@gmail.com.

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