Op-Ed: Building loyalty through customer commitment
As a small business owner, today’s competitive market may be intimidating. If a competitor cuts prices or offers other incentives, you may feel tempted to do the same thing to hold on to your customers, even if it puts the stability of your business at risk.
Though cost is important to customers today, it is but one component of a larger, more important attribute — value. If your business provides it through service, responsiveness, and going the “extra mile,” your customers will respond with loyalty, regardless of what your competition does.
Building loyalty through value is something small business owners have been good at for centuries because they are better able to cultivate relationships with their customers. They focus not just on selling to them, but also keeping them. That stability is more efficient and predictable for everyone involved.
Building loyalty is not a marketing matter so don’t look there for help. To foster customer loyalty, a small business needs a strategy that keeps patrons coming back. It starts with basics that are sometimes overlooked. Thanking customers for their business, for example, goes a long way. But try going beyond a few spoken words. Write some thank you notes and letters. Make them personal and sincere. Just let them know you appreciate their business.
Creating value will help boost loyalty. Ask customers if there is anything else you could be doing for them. Then, after they tell you, do it. When a customer leaves, you should consider it unacceptable. Find out why it happened and then work to prevent it from happening again.
Remember, too, that your customers’ needs are always changing, and that they may find attributes or “extras” in other business that put your service elements at a disadvantage. Take ease of access, for example. Make sure all your touch points — your phones, website, store layout, etc. — operates with your customer’s needs in mind. Visiting competitors’ locations and sites may alert you to areas where you may be behind, and spark ideas for making a good service or process even better. If your customers like what they find at your business, they’ll keep coming back for more.
To get more advice to improve your small business, contact SCORE, America’s free and confidential source of small business mentoring and coaching. SCORE is a national nonprofit association of more than 12,000 business experts who volunteer as mentors. SCORE Puerto Rico provides free counseling to local entrepreneurs.
Experienced business executives with a wide variety of business backgrounds donate their time to help businesses. Counseling is available face-to-face and by other means. Give us a call us at 787-766-5001 and make an appointment to see us. You can also visit our national interactive website at www.score.org.
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