New customers are the lifeblood of companies. Or are they? Lately, marketers have been spending more time on current customers -- revamping what customer service means, investing more in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and building teams to improve communication with customers.
In this age of social connectivity, customer loyalty has become more valuable than ever. Consumers share stories of their interactions with businesses on social media, meaning that word-of-mouth marketing is especially valuable.
Since customer loyalty can be critical to making a sale, ask yourself what you're doing to cultivate it. When was the last time you spent money or resources on making your customers feel appreciated? Many might argue that a focus on customer appreciation isn't just a best practice -- it could mean the difference between failure and survival in today's word-of-mouth driven economy.
Here are five ways you can take customer loyalty up a notch:
1. Improve your 'Thank You.'
Most of us have a Web page or email that thanks our customers for converting, whether that means joining the community, purchasing a product or signing up for a newsletter. But chances are good that the "thank you" could use some work. Because the thank you page or email is seen by every single one of your customers, you should ask: Does it put your best foot forward?
Rather than merely using that page to confirm an action, why not add some useful resources, follow-up steps or company contact information? Other ideas for improvement include lacing in a promotion to instigate immediate action or simply making the message more visually enticing.
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2. Optimize your feedback channels.
Feedback comes in many forms, but chances are you're getting customer responses you aren't even using. While many companies tap into what their customer service department is hearing, they are less likely to proactively survey their website visitors or to analyze their cancelation and return forms. That's a shame because these are all opportunities to get more information on what customers need.
When you take the time to improve your feedback channels, you are telling your audience, "We care about what you think." This reminder can help build loyalty and help you answer concerns in a timelier manner, reducing customer loss and building trust.
3. Go beyond cancellations as a performance indicator.
While you need to know how many of your customers are cancelling, it is a reactive performance indicator. In addition to monitoring your customers loss, you can gauge loyalty by watching your company's "net promoter score," frequency of customer interactions with your business and the length of time between customer visits. By tracking how engaged customers are and how likely they are to recommend your company, you can get a more complete measure of their loyalty.
Related: How to Get Customers Using Your Online Rewards (Video)
4. Assign someone to manage it.
Tracking and improving customer loyalty can be a challenge if no one specific is managing it. Good candidates for this responsibility often come from customer service, marketing, operations or product teams. The key qualifications are the ability to work well with others and a belief in the value of both qualitative and quantitative data analysis.
Whoever you choose should understand that customer loyalty may touch a number of departments at your company, but it deserves its own champion for maximum success.
5. Evangelize the gains and losses.
While customer loyalty should have a dedicated advocate, it is a company-wide effort. Unfortunately, customer loyalty scores rarely get touted as much as revenue and profits. Why is that? Many companies see customer loyalty as something beyond their control, that it is the natural result of the websites they build and products and services they sell. But companies have a number of opportunities to build trust and loyalty by making their interactions with customers the best they can be.
To show the importance of these interactions to customer retention, you can share with the rest of the company the results of your loyalty measurements, whether good or bad. This makes it a company-wide priority, and only then are you really taking customer loyalty to the next level.
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