The loyalty ladder – To keep your customers, give them what they want (what they really, really want)
We all want our customers’ hearts, don’t we? We want them to want us, need us, come back to us again and again.
Obviously we do, that’s the nature of business. But more so than ever before, they want yours too. They want your heart and they won’t be happy until you give it. No faking either! It has to be real, because if they think they’ve been duped, they’ll never talk to you again. Or worse, they’ll gossip all around town about you.
It sounds exactly like a real relationship. We could almost end this little article right here!
Seriously though, it shouldn’t come as a shock to any sales or marketing professional that in order to win customer loyalty, a company must give in equal measure. It’s practically Newtonian! But so many companies don’t, or don’t do it well. So often, organisations believe that satisfaction equals loyalty, but at the same time still plough huge amounts of money into prospecting and basic retentions operations, not realising the inherent contradiction between what they believe (satisfaction = loyalty) and what they’re actually doing (no loyalty, so ever more prospecting).
Satisfaction is a good start, though. Not something to get too excited about. It’s the first sign we’re getting the basics right. But retention is the ultimate goal, and we’re talking about proactive retention, which aims to evolve our customers into repeat customers, because servicing a repeat customer is a fraction of the cost of constantly finding new ones.
The companies which truly excel at customer loyalty, know it’s an all-encompassing feature of the sales and marketing effort. Without wishing to sound sinister, these companies have their customers ‘locked-in’ to such an extent, they have become evangelists for the products and the company itself. Their customers are actively out there singing their praises.
So who are these corporations who got it so right? We’ve all heard of them. Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Tesco. Giants of CRM, whose products and company ethos have wormed their ways into how we live our lives. They have the products, they have the service, they proactively service their customers, they employ hugely effective exit barriers, and they’ve perfected call deflection to such an extent that their customers feel it’s a form of outreach!
The good news is, we don’t all have to be vast corporations to wield the tools which will bring in and keep our customers, nor are the techniques a secret. Just take the loyalty ladder. It’s the essential foundation of all good CRM.
The loyalty ladder model itself varies a little according to whom you talk to, however the principles are common. From the universe of all available companies or people, some prospecting is always required. Having achieved a sale, they become a bona fide customer. Now make them a repeat customer – a ‘member’. If they keep buying, they will most likely and quite naturally become an ‘advocate’ – advising others to use your company and services – when asked.
But the ‘evangelist’ doesn’t wait to be asked for a recommendation! The evangelist is out there singing from the rooftops. They love you and what you do! They want everybody to know.
How then, does one cultivate a customer into an evangelist? Simple enough to say, and in fact we’ve already said it – give them your heart.
Giving your heart means many things, but it starts with the sale. Our salespeople should understand that a sale is the beginning of a great opportunity, not an end in itself. And having achieved the sale, the customer service operation comes into force as a palpable presence in the customer’s experience. The back-up, the website, downloads, live chat, the advice, FAQs, the literature and blogs and social media, all available 24/7.
At this point in the evolution of our customer, more tools are required to engender loyalty. Exit barriers are highly effective in doing so. Just look at Tesco with their Clubcard points, their cheap petrol on site, and their superb manipulation of customer data for tailored offers. With a half-decent CRM database, any small company can and should be doing this.
But it’s going to take effort. The more proactive effort, the more concerted, effective effort, the more we’ve become part of the customer’s world. And to move that customer on to being an evangelist, we talk to them, then listen. Don’t just seem interest – be interested. Make our customer know they’re valuable. Put them on our blogs. Ask them about the competition, find out how they’re better than you. Then be better than them and credit your customer. Make them feel all fuzzy!
If it all sounds very emotional, it should, because it ultimately is. Winning hearts and minds is emotional. Only a customer who trusts us will keep buying from us. And when they feel valued, they’ll stick with us, even when things go wrong. And that’s when you know you’ve won your customer’s heart.
Steve Shellabear is Managing Director at dancing lion
Dancing lion has worked extensively across industry sectors with private and public sectors organisations in the UK and abroad.
They design and deliver innovative training programmes that build front-line staff capability, develop manager’s skills, maximise the customer experience and help win and retain customers; their success is based on a combination of experience,personal attention and focus on helping our clients make measurable improvements.