We all say we want loyal customers who come to us first with their needs, but what exactly is loyalty and how do we build that?
The dictionary defines loyalty as a strong feeling of support or allegiance. In business we think of it as continuing and increasing business with the company and saying good things about the company. The first two points are obvious but the second is exponentially growing in importance. In small towns, people talk and word spreads, either good or bad. Everywhere people talk on the Internet and words spreads faster and farther.
How to achieve customer loyalty seems daunting but it need not be. It is simply building and maintaining Integrity, Trust, Respect, and Reliability. First and foremost, be honest in everything you do. Customers want and need to be able to believe all that you tell them. Secondly, listen to them and they will tell you what they need to hear in order to be sold or have a problem solved. Then offer a practical and efficient solution that makes it easy for them to buy. Avoid any deceptive practices, which offers short-term solutions or misleads.
Don't promise what you cannot deliver and deliver what you promise on time. Meet your commitments on time every time, follow up to make sure you have solved the problem now and long term, the solution is available, and the customer's effort to get it working is easy and quick.
Listening cannot be over emphasized to gain trust. Respect the customer's opinion and explanations, knowledge, and ability. Learn from the discussion because others may have the same needs or problems and you can anticipate solutions you need to have available. Shelves need to be stocked, inventory current, and service and sales personnel are knowledgeable. Training of the staff is always important but sometimes the customers need to be educated as well on the proper solution and how to use it. This sometimes requires some tact but people do want to learn and become more knowledgeable.
Local business has an advantage over Internet sales in that you can ask questions to better understand the needs, and recommend the proper solution.
Always maintain a positive attitude, both in voice and body language. Make the customer comfortable and at ease. Remember to treat the customer the same, as you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes.