Make This “The Year of the Customer:” 8 Ways Customer Loyalty Pays

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Who says customer loyalty is dead? Certainly not thriving companies like Dell, Google, Southwest Airlines, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Chick-fil-A. Customer Care Leadership expert JoAnna Brandi sheds light on why customer loyalty Â? which has its roots in consistently outstanding customer experiences Â? is the cornerstone of a sound business strategy.

Have some New Year’s resolutions regarding career or business success? According to customer care leadership expert JoAnna Brandi, in today’s high-speed, competitive market you’d be crazy not to – and even crazier not to keep ‘customer loyalty’ front and center of your intentions.

She explains, “Former Dell CIO Jerry Gregoire alluded to the critical importance of achieving customer loyalty when he said, ‘The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.’ Amen! The customer experience makes or breaks customer loyalty. With so many choices today, it’s the quality of the experience – how you repeatedly make your customers feel at each and every touchpoint – that will determine whether or not they’ll come back, purchase more, and refer their colleagues and friends to you.”

Brandi cautions that it’s all about your customers’ “perception” of the value you deliver, both tangible and intangible. She says, “You may think you know the kind of customer experience you’re delivering, and that your customers share your views. You may think that because your customers stick around and don’t complain they are loyal.

“Be careful not to mistake customer inertia for loyalty. It's easy to do. Remember that loyalty is a genuine emotional attachment that occurs when your customers appreciate the value of your product or service, as well as way you deliver it. Because they repeatedly feel powerful, positive emotions in dealing with you they'll choose you above your competitors - even if they have to go out of their way or pay a bit more.

“Plus, loyal customers become your #1 fans - they enjoy telling others about their experiences with your company, and are quick to encourage people to try your service or product.”

According to Brandi, strong customer loyalty feeds into a profit-building business cycle in a number of common sense ways:

1) Loyal customers buy more – and are often willing to pay more. This creates a steadier cash flow.

2) Loyal customers refer others to your business – saving you the marketing and advertising costs of acquiring customers.

3) Loyal customers are more forgiving when you make mistakes – even big ones (especially if you have a system in place that empowers employees to correct errors on the spot. Then loyal customers become even more loyal!).

4) A loyal customer’s endorsement can surpass the most extravagant marketing efforts. Proof of the pudding: A low-budget film can become a blockbuster hit thanks to positive word of mouth (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Mega stars and publicity blitzes can’t prevent high-profile films from tanking (Alexander the Great); the word ‘on the street’ is more powerful.

5) Thriving companies with high customer loyalty usually have loyal employees who are genuinely engaged in their work – and loyal employees save you money in a variety of ways. You don’t have to spend money attracting, hiring and training new employees, and you have knowledgeable people at all levels of the organization serving the customers and each other. And those employees get very smart over time - in a culture that values them and their contributions they can be responsible for countless system improvements – and millions in savings.

6) Thriving companies with high customer and employee loyalty are generally known to outpace their competitors in innovation. (Think Gore-Tex, Southwest Airlines (the twenty minute turn-around), Progressive insurance) In addition, their cultures support continuous learning. Brandi comments, “In today’s market, if you’re not continuously learning and innovating, there’s no question that you’re falling behind.”

7) Loyal customers understand your processes and can offer suggestions for improvement. Their feedback can help with R&D efforts as well as improvement efforts.

8) Profits, Profits, and did we say Profits? An increase in your retention of customers can boost your bottom line profit 25-100% depending on your fixed costs.

Based on these benefits and more, Brandi advises, “Make this the Year of the Customer, and you’re much more likely to achieve your New Year’s business resolutions.”

For the month of January, Brandi is offering free copies of “The Nine Foundation Principles of Exquisite Customer Care,’ a list of essential qualities for creating loyalty-building customer experiences and thriving organizations. To obtain a copy, please send an email to specialreport@customercarecoach.com and place “The Nine Foundation Principles” in the subject line.

The Customer Care Coach® is a customer care leadership training program for managers. For more information, visit http://www.customercarecoach.com/welcome.asp or contact Tracey Paradiso at tracey@customercarecoach.com.

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