As the Manager, Administration/Accounts, of a medium sized technical services company in Lagos, Nigeria, I had had to contend with one of the most challenging functions of a manager, namely ensuring customer loyalty. One fact is indisputable – customer loyalty is the key to business survival, irrespective of the size.
As easy as the task appears, it requires a lot on the part of any business-minded organisation. Ensuring customer loyalty involves doing everything to ensure that the customer ‘’sticks’’ to your business i.e., that there is repeat purchases. It involves creating a devotion or an attachment to the business by your customers.
In a world where no single firm engages in a line of business, this can really be a demanding task. It therefore requires that businesses have to do everything possible to edge out one another in a bid to retain their customers.
Many businesses have had to be eased out of the market simply because of constant loss of customers to competitors. One big mistake businesses normally make is to assume that the loss of a customer ends at that single loss. But often times, the loss of a customer might lead to the loss of other customers/potential customers connected to the lost customer. Thus, prolonged and consistent customer loyalty is a task that must be achieved if a business must survive fro long. Once your customers are loyal to your business, repeat-purchase/patronage can be assured. It will not be wrong to say therefore that in the world of business the consumer is king.
Here are some simple and cheap tips which I applied, which yielded excellent results :
*Regular phone calls – The popular saying that ‘’out of sight is out mind’’ is very true and also applies in the business world. A simple courtesy phone call to the manager or owner of a business goes a very long way in showing that you care and is an indirect way of saying ‘’ please do not forget us/me.’’
*Branded gifts – Branded gifts is also a good way of attracting customer loyalty. Everyone likes and appreciates freebies. It is also a form of advertisement for the business. Branded gifts usually travel far, thus creating more awareness and a has a reminder effect.
*A warm welcome and treatment – This is one of the no-costs things you can do to ensure customer loyalty. A simple smile can have a very powerful effect on a customer. Everyone feels good when warmly received and treated. It makes the customer want to come back again and again, and even recommend your business to other people.
* After sales courtesy –This involves showing concern over the satisfaction of the customer after purchase or after rendering the service. This gives your customers the impression that you are not only concerned about the money, but also their satisfaction.
* Courtesy visits – Do not wait until your customers come to you before you see them. Do not practice sit-tight business. Pay regular visits. You could pick up deals in on some of those courtesy visits. *Attend customers’ functions – Find time to attend functions organized by your customers. It makes the bond between two of you to be stronger. You can even strike new deals there or even make new customers.
*Organize customers’ fora – Here, you interact, receive complaints, suggestions and you generally feel their pulse at such gatherings. It gives your customers a sense of belonging in the business. Thus, you make them feel that your relationship goes beyond just buying and selling or rendering services.
* Have branded work tools and materials – Having branded materials like stationery, packing materials, delivery vehicles, receipts, invoices, among others, has an effect of constantly ‘’announcing’’ your presence in the market place.
* Give bonuses and discounts – Bonuses and discounts are powerful tools in business. Every customer wants cheap but good quality goods and services. Once in a while, grant discounts – cash, quantity or trade discounts. Quantity discounts have been known to attract customers more than the other forms of customers since it impacts directly on the quantity bought. Bonuses also encourage repeat purchases. A buy-one-get-one-free sale will certainly attract more customers and bring them back again. Festive occasions should not be the only time for granting discounts or bonuses.
* Give urgent attention to customers’ complaints – Many businesses have lost customers because of their inability to handle complains. In some cases, attend to the problem personally (for small businesses) rather than send your staff or junior officer (big businesses).
* Always say “thank you” and “I am sorry” – It costs nothing to say ‘thank you” to a customer who has patronised you. It costs nothing too to say ‘’I am sorry” where a customer deserves it. However, you sow the seeds of loyalty by saying them.
* Never allow a customer to leave with annoyance. – You may never have his patronage again. He could even discourage other potential customers from coming to you. Do everything possible to to leave a good impression about you and your business, especially if the customer is first timer.
No doubt, no matter how good a business may be in terms of staff competence, high quality products, good location, best connections, highly skilled management team or strong financial back up or eye-popping buildings, it takes purchases and patronage for businesses to survive. Customers determine whether the business stays or collapses. Their patronage determines whether your business would be ranked as small, medium or large. No business opens its doors for employees to buy its products. they look forward to the patronage of customers.
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