Northwest Business Magazine

How to Win Loyalty? Learn It and Earn It

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How effective is your business at earning and maintaining customer loyalty? Susan Dobbe-Leahy, of Dobbe Marketing in Crystal Lake, explains why loyalty is essential, yet fragile.

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What are you doing to build loyalty with your clients, customers and community?
Points, discounts, savings and perks will bring folks back to your business, but it’s personal relationships that form a true bond.

Your client remembers the free shipping on the last order, samples of new products and free insurance included with travel. These are components of the connection, but loyalty is based on delivering on expectations and forming trust.

Loyalty can be lost quickly with one bad experience – especially if the personal connection is not in place.
For example, Noodles & Company recently revealed it has survived a major data breach for Indiana and Illinois locations. As a credit card customer of the delicious noodle-rific franchise, I am going to carefully scan my past and future bills, but will that breach prevent me from visiting Noodles & Company? No. The friendliness and service are excellent. The food is a healthy choice that tastes like a guilty pleasure. I will be back, with cash, ready for my next purchase.

Like Target recently discovered, Noodles & Company will have to rebuild trust and loyalty, but it will recover. The company’s product and customer service are first-rate. Management and staff have excellent training. They are given information and instruction to handle inquiries about the breach from corporate – starting with apologies and concluding with solutions. Their customers know what happened and what to expect next.

Listening and responding to others, in the moment, builds a connection that endures problems and withstands overtures from competitors.

Ordering your lunch can be a joyful experience when the server makes you feel special. No points need to be collected or cards punched. Yet, if given, the perks are appreciated. Remember these basics of human interaction and note they cost nothing but a little time and effort:
• Smiles are free, yet so valued
• Eye contact is a sign of respect and caring
• Cheerful inquiries make a connection
• Helpful responses reflect an effort to please
• Manage obstacles with grace and candor
• Complete an exchange in a positive manner
• Follow-up and follow-through demonstrate sincerity

Business-to-business, business-to-consumer and everyday connections are more productive when pleasantly presented.

Loyalty starts with you, whether you are CEO or bussing tables. It’s important for people to feel they are important to you and your business.

Set the example as a leader in your business, family or network. Demonstrate your ability to listen, learn and serve. Every positive encounter can lay a brick in the bridge of loyalty. When problems occur, there may be a pause, a time of concern. With continued attention to detail and personal connections, you can rebuild relationships.

Life is long, the world is small. Building bridges that link us for the long-term is smart business and smart marketing. Over time, you may attract new people to your business. New demographic groups may see a need for your product or service. Many times we see competitors evolve into business partners or collaborators. This can happen if your personal relationships are building bridges of communication instead of walls of isolation.

Loyalty starts with understanding what members of your target group want and need, then giving them what they expect and sometimes a bit more.

Are you learning the loyalty needs of your clients, colleagues and community? This is an ongoing process. Then, you must continuously evolve to earn it.

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