Customer Loyalty Equals Business Success – Chinwe Kalu
Yes, Customer loyalty equals business success. Every small business owner thinks about how best to build customer loyalty but not everyone truly appreciates the link between customer loyalty and business success.
‘Customer is King’ is a common, customer service cliché. Business owners know that customers sustain the business. Every business owner should be doing all they can to retain customers and even get them to give referrals.
That is customer loyalty at its best when they are so satisfied with their experience that they share it with their associates, family, and friends and help to widen the customer base. It does not get better than that. Business growth becomes organic when ‘word of mouth’ referrals push sales and generate more revenue.
Customer Loyalty: The Irony of Reality
However, in our clime, it appears business owners feel they are doing customers a favor with these high failure rates-lack to be in business. After all, they are meeting some customer needs. Customers need what they sell. They should be grateful. Customers also respond to that type of treatment. They are never loyal. In pidgin, they simply say, ‘soja come, soja go’. There is no sense of loyalty at all.
So typically, we have businesses also coming and going. For every 10 businesses that take off, 8 close down after 5 years. That is an 80% failure rate. There are all the typical reasons for these high failure rates-lack of funding, poor infrastructure, high cost of funds, etc. However, the most important factor is very low customer loyalty. Businesses just don’t give customers enough reason to want to stay with them. Businesses need to understand how to improve customer experience if they must remain in business.
I needed to buy a pressure pot from one of the supermarkets in my area. There were several pots on the shelves-different sizes and brands. When I got to the shelf in question, there was no one to attend to me, so I asked who was responsible. They called for her. She sauntered toward me after about five minutes. When I asked her how much the pots were, guess what she told me, “not more the 15k sha. I don’t know how much each one is. Her attitude was, ‘I am busy, I need to go back to what I am doing. It is possible that many people ask for the item and doesn’t buy and she thought I was one such customer. But I was not. I wanted to buy.
For a second, I was shocked. Ideally, there should be price tags on items in a supermarket. There were none. I came face to face with the officer manning the shelf and she also does not know the price of the item.
My first instinct was to scream at her, hiss, and walk away. But I needed to control myself. I needed the pot. So, I calmed down and asked her to go and get the prices. She did and I eventually bought one. But I must say I was irritated. The only reason I did the transaction was that I did not have an alternative. That kind of behavior just irritates customers.
Recently, my daughter went for her close friend’s birthday lunch outing. Her friend wanted to treat them to an intimate lunch in a cozy nice place where they could take great pictures. She gets online and makes a booking with a restaurant that owns two outlets. This is not obvious as she made the booking. She only knew of one outlet. Meanwhile, the booking was done for the other outlet.
So her birthday finally comes and she and her friends end up at the outlet she knew. No one was expecting her party. She was being expected at the other outlet. She has to get her guests across to the other outlet, only for them to get there and find themselves sitting at a long table with all five of them on the same side of the table, unable to interact with each other. They sat there for a few minutes and the celebrant was entering into depression just imagining how the evening would be with her sitting at that table awkwardly with her friends.
At some point, she made a decision. She was not going to allow the restaurant and its sloppiness to ruin her day, she moved her friends to another restaurant. As God would have it, she had made two reservations, just in case something goes wrong with the first one, they would go to the next. And that is just what they did. They moved to the next restaurant.
Do you want to guess what my daughter called the first restaurant jokers? Your guess is as good as mine as to any of the five ladies in the birthday lunch party ever going back to that restaurant.
I have many more stories but, these two will suffice for now. How do businesses ensure that customers become and remain loyal to them?
Five Tips To Building Customer Loyalty
- Always remember and teach all the staff that the customer is the most important person to the company. He/she is not dependent on the business. On the contrary, our business depends on his patronage. Therefore he/she should never be perceived as an interruption. He/she is doing us the honor of allowing us to meet his/her need. So everyone must have the right attitude to the customer, from the CEO to the gateman. Friendliness is key.
- Remember that customers want value. In delivering your products/services, always ensure that customers get value in terms of price, convenience, and speed of delivery. Make sure that your structures make their experience with you pleasurable one-the keywords are value, convenience, and speed.
- Always act positive and enthusiastic when attending to customers. Go the extra mile to meet their needs. That way they feel approved and appreciated. They never forget that. They will also share the story with others.
- Make sure that you know your business and understand what drives it. These are the things customers pay for. Such basic things as salespeople knowing the price, features, and benefits of their products and services should be given.
- When something goes wrong, businesses must be able to make amends. You must be able to appease the customer such that they walk away feeling good about how the issue was managed. That is not the time to argue, point fingers, ask awkward questions, or pass the buck. Take responsibility and proffer effective solutions that delight the customer and make them feel appreciated.
While there are many more things we could do to engender customer loyalty, these would suffice as the very basic and foundational place to start. I honestly feel that many businesses would survive the very difficult business terrain if they would just imbibe these few tips. They would make a huge difference.
They will have to be adapted to the type of products and services being delivered. Size cannot fit all. What works for a restaurant may not work for a fast food joint. They both sell food but the dynamics are different.
Remember, the stories I told. If the supermarket just put price tags, there would have been no need to even speak to the lady at all. Imagine she took responsibility for the rack/shelf that was in her care and knew the prices of the stock that was under her jurisdiction, my experience would have been better.
Imagine, if it was clear to my daughter’s friend that there were other outlets, she would have avoided the merry-go-round journey she had on her birthday.
The two examples just show how little businesses pay attention to little details that could make the customer experience so much better. Hence the lack of loyalty. Can businesses begin to apply themselves a little? Business is about making money. However, customers must enjoy doing business with you to part with their money repeatedly and even tell other people about you. So businesses must begin to do business with the mindset of delighting customers to make money. Customer loyalty is a function of how much they enjoy being with you. The more pleasant the experience is, the more loyalty, businesses get. I rest my case.
Improving customer loyalty might require that you train your staff to be able to deliver optimum customer experience since they are the ones that will be in direct contact with the customers.
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