Keeping Customers Loyal: The Human Side Of
By Joe Calloway
The Acme Widget Company needed to increase revenue and profits, so they
undertook an initiative to attract new customers. They launched a new
advertising campaign and offered special deals to first time buyers. They
were initially delighted to see a significant and immediate increase in new
customers. Their joy was short lived, however, as they saw revenue and
profits actually decline.
The Acme Widget Company made a classic business blunder. As new customers
came in the front door, existing customers were leaving in greater numbers
through the back door. They had violated one of the most important rules of
business: never take your customers for granted.
Even a small reduction in customer defections can significantly increase
profits. Because your fixed costs don’t change much regardless of how many
customers you have, the retention of existing customers is vitally important
in maximizing profit. Creating and strengthening customer loyalty must be a
top priority of any business if it is to grow and prosper.
Merely “satisfied” customers won’t cut it in today’s marketplace. Countless
studies have shown that satisfied customers will defect in a heartbeat if
they think they can get a better deal somewhere else. You’ve got to create
completely satisfied customers whose loyalty can’t be swayed no
matter what your competition offers them.
Here are ten essential tactics to keep customers loyal:
1. Take a big picture approach. Demonstrate how your product or
service can help them accomplish their big picture, long-term goals.
2. Speak their language. Don’t use your industry jargon, use
theirs. Show them that you have a depth of understanding about their
business that your competition just doesn’t have.
3. Be a source of intelligence. Dedicate yourself to finding new
information and insights that can help your customers succeed.
4. Know who the customer is today, not yesterday. Your customers
constantly change. You have to know how to serve your customers’ current
needs, not their needs from a week or a month ago. Stay current on changes
in your customer’s situation.
5. Point out what an incredible deal they’re getting. What are you
doing for your customers that provide value, but that they may not know
about? Let them know what you’re doing that goes above and beyond the
6. Make it the first six weeks again. The first six weeks of any
relationship are magical. Everyone loves everyone. Gestures of appreciation
are made on a regular basis. Then it starts to get old. We don’t try as hard
anymore to make a great impression. Go back to that first six weeks. Make it
7. Make them tell you how to be better. Don’t ask your customers if
they’re happy. Ask them how you can be better. Make them tell you. They will
appreciate that you are making the effort and you will gain some information
that can lock in loyalty.
8. Find out who’s trying to break you up. Your competitors are always
trying to steal your customers away. Find out what they’re whispering in
your customers’ ears. Match or beat any value that your competition if
offering. (That doesn’t mean you have to beat their price. You just have to
beat their value).
9. Continuously audit your “easy to do business with” factor. Look at
every touchpoint you have with your customers, including Web site, telephone
calls, invoices, or anywhere else you interact with your customer and see
how you can be easier to do business with. It’s the number one rated factor
in businessto-business buying decisions.
10. Have a face-to-face, heart-to-heart “thank you” session. Don’t
discount the significance of expressing appreciation to your customers. Get
in your car or on a plane, and tell them in person how very much you
appreciate their business. It could prove to be your best insurance against
defection to a competitor.
In a business environment in which margins continually shrink, the
competition gets better, and customers become smarter and more demanding
every day, the fight to retain customers becomes critically important to
your success. While always working to grow through the acquisition of new
business, never let your focus waver in terms of keeping the customers
you’ve already got.
Remember that customers tend to leave because they didn’t like the human
side of doing business with a provider of a product or service. Be sure that
you are competitive with price and quality, and always be vigilant about
that human side of doing business. Maya Angelou spoke a great truth with
these words: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you
did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joe Calloway is a partner in Engage Consulting Group, and author of several
best-selling business books including the newly revised edition of “Becoming
a Category of One,” (August 2009, Wiley). Corporate heavyweights BMW,
American Express, IBM and many more have sought his insight into today’s
marketplace. Joe provides consulting to help companies accelerate their
strategies and make their visions reality. To purchase his books or hire him
as a consultant, visit www.joecalloway.com or call (615) 383-2249.