By Danielle Miller
Danielle is the Product Manager for the Client Experience Center of Excellence. She has spent her career involved in the direct front line connections with customers, serving clients in a variety of industries with all aspects of training, design, development and facilitation. Danielle strives to build innovative solutions that bring constructive business and personal level solutions while aiming for the next level of performance.
Considering the topic of Customer Loyalty, I recall a few years back when I worked for a large consulting firm. The team I was hired to be a part of was growing due to the customer loyalty built by our firm’s leadership. The “customer” in this case was the United States Air Force and as with many government contracts, the work is a prized contract to obtain and maintain.
The first year of the contract went great. We met our obligations, exceeded expectations and earned follow-on work. The second year, however, presented significant challenges. Two key leaders from our firm left, and the replacements’ lackluster relationship skills resulted in a lack of trust within our internal teams and eventually with our client. The erosion over the next few months resulted in the loss of over 30 jobs and weakened the customer bond. The disregard for the importance of relationships was like watching dominoes fall and once it began, customer loyalty soon shifted.
The USAF clearly valued relationships and it’s loyalty to our company hinged on how well our leadership cultivated those relationships. The leadership team (in the second year) either did not know the importance of customer loyalty or failed in the cultivation of those relationships. Today, the team that once numbered over 35 employees, is less than five.
A smaller scale magnified…recently, a good friend shared her example of Customer Loyalty.
She has been loyal to the same dry cleaners for over 10 years. She’s so dedicated to them that she even chose to follow them when they have relocated. Although she no longer lives or works nearby, her loyalty to this particular dry cleaner kept her going back despite the fact that she hates traveling outside a five mile radius!
All the dry cleaner employees are friendly and caring, even the owner knows her by name. In our conversation, she goes on to tout, “oh, and they offer reasonable prices and alterations.” While I am sure there are many other dry cleaners closer to her who offer similar benefits such as great prices, alterations and clean clothes; they will never enjoy a dollar of her business because of the customer loyalty she feels. In this example, her loyalty has been built and is reinforced with each return visit.
It makes perfect business sense to consider, when magnified by the 10 years of her patronage, that the business practice of building customer loyalty pays smart dividends. Customer Loyalty is earned by treating each encounter, contract, engagement, and meeting as another opportunity to solidify the customer experience. Being available after the sale or contract is signed reinforces that a customer made the right choice to purchase from you but also reassures them when considering doing any new business with you.
In conclusion, these two stories serve as a reminder, whether we represent a large consulting firm or small family run business that it never hurts to personalize the interaction with perks, discounts or other value added methods, acknowledge the years of continued patronage, and thank a customer for their business. In an increasingly detached and hurried world, we all want to feel and be reassured that we’re important. Businesses will thrive if they know more about each unique customer, offer a feeling of belonging and show a genuine interest in who their customers are.