I had a really interesting experience the other day related to how to build customer loyalty. I wanted to try a new blogging tool. I was doing some research and found a tool offering a free trial with no credit card required. I decided to give it a go. I installed the plugin and went over to the site and started clicking around. Soon after that, I got an email — from the CEO!

Now, let me be clear, this isn’t a small company I’m talking about. Granted, it’s not Apple either, but it’s a known brand and I guess the CEO must have been doing something online that weekend because I was lucky enough to email back and forth with him. The entire conversation started with an automated email that requested my feedback. I responded and every email after that was a personalized response in answer to my questions.

How Companies Can Build Customer Loyalty

This got me thinking about all the companies I’ve worked with and used over the years and what they actually did to earn my loyalty. I created this list and thought I’d share it with you.

Learning Opportunities

  • Go mobile. With more than 4 billion mobile devices out there, it’s likely your customers will use a mobile device to interact with you. Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Survey them, but not too much. The mere act of surveying customers puts you top of mind and thus your customers are more likely to buy. But another benefit to surveying your customers is that it’s a great way to inform them about your products, services and what sets you apart from the competition.
  • Create a personalized experience. Personalization is a huge trend. To give great customer service, research what really matters to your customers. Don’t hide behind technology, use it to bring you closer to your customer and that way build customer loyalty.
  • Engage with incentives. Too many businesses take the easy way out by defaulting to incentives like iPads or gift cards. While those are certainly nice, you risk getting engagement from people who are more interested in the incentive and not as interested in what you’re offering. Get creative and look for incentives that not only feature your product or assistance, but give real benefit to the customer, like letting your best customers skip the line, or have a fancy event for your customers where you feature your latest and greatest. If you sell a physical product, send your customers free samples before you launch it to anyone else. Make them feel special.
  • Socialize. Don’t just default to what everyone else is doing. Take a close look at which social media channels your customers participate the most in and be there too. Engage with your customers as people and not just credit card numbers. And don’t just use social media to respond to negative customers — appreciate your fans!
  • Develop rewards programs with levels of engagement. Would you believe that a paying membership program could actually increase customer loyalty? I read about a local restaurant that actually offered three levels of membership customers could purchase. Inside each package were coupons, offers and invitations to events. When members came in to use their rewards, they actually brought friends — who — you guessed it — also bought a package.   
  • Focus on employees. There are actually two schools of thought: one says to focus on the customer and give them everything. This is a great strategy and one I’m featuring here. But there’s another school of thought: focus on the employees and they will naturally give great service. There are many examples of employee-first companies. Southwest Airlines is one of them. If that’s too much for you, start by allowing them to be flexible with policies. Train your employees, give them guidelines and a structure inside of which they can operate and then, just let them be. If you’d like to learn more about this, read "I Love You More Than My Dog" by Jeanne Bliss.
  • Know your products and service inside and out. This might seem obvious to you, but how many times have you walked into a store and asked an associate a question only to get a blank stare? I used to shop at a local bookstore called Books & Co. Everyone who worked there was a real book lover and it was not at all unusual to get into a pretty deep conversation with one of the associates while browsing the aisles. These people were practically librarians.
  • Be your word. It’s one thing to give your word, to do what you said you would do. This is certainly a great trait. But being your word is a little different. Being your word is more like living your brand.

I always like to say that marketing isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you are. In today’s world, likeability is better than capability.

Given the choice, people would much rather buy from people they like. They are more willing to forgive small mistakes and shoot — even big ones. When people like you, they want to spend time with you and money with you. Use these nine tips to build customer and brand loyalty and you’ll not only increase sales, but you’ll also have a lot more fun at work.

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