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Treat Loyal Customers as Well as You Do New Ones Welcome familiar faces back to your business as your benefactors. Don't take anyone for granted.

By Karen Mishra Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yes, it's easy for entrepreneurs to remember to go out of their way to be warm and welcoming to new customers. So merchants often extend themselves to greet them, ask their names and thank them for coming.

But, when customers do return, do you treat them just as well as before?

In my own research on building loyalty and trust with customers, I have found that creating a sense of shared values with your customers can lead to loyalty and their intention to return to make a purchase. Find a way to show new and regular customers that you share a passion for quality or a desire to give back.

The Loyalty Effect author Frederich F. Reichheld found that it is more profitable for a business owner to keep loyal customers rather than to always have to scramble to find new ones. His research showed that loyal customers can provide a business some client referrals and increased profits, when these individuals decide to stay and pay more rather than look elsewhere for a cheaper alternative.

Here are some tips to infuse compassion into your customer service:

Related: Why Catering to Exactly What Clients Want Is a Winning Strategy

1. Don't take return customers for granted.

Think about how you greet friends at your home. You don't ignore them or forget their names, but you open the door with a smile, welcome them in and ask how you can make them comfortable. So don't take for granted a customer whom you've seen before.

My local dry-cleaning company (Regency Cleaners in Durham, N.C.) is so good at this: The staffers remember my name and alway are welcoming.

2. Make sure the greeter has a positive outlook.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs hire front-office folks because they will filter out undesirable encounters. But make sure you do not filtering out good and loyal customers, too.

I once left a small dental practice not because of the dentist but because of his receptionist. She was overly aggressive, snarky and a bully. I dreaded going to the dentist just because of her. In contrast, a another dentist had a receptionist who was warm, friendly and reassuring. It was a delight to see her each visit.

3. Remember names.

I'm always astonished by how the Starbucks manager in Durham can remember the names of all her customers. She works hard at it. She told me that she remembers a few new names each day and then shares that information with the baristas so that they will know whom they're serving, too.

This manager not only remembers names but she also writes a drawing or message on my cup, along with my name.

4. Ask how you can help then listen.

People often make assumptions about why a customer has arrived at the business: Maybe the person needed to replenish supplies or was stopping by on the way home. Whatever the customer's reason, really listen to what this person is saying (or not).

The more you listen, the more you can help that client make a good purchase decision. The waitstaff at my favorite diner in Durham, Bull Street Gourmet & Market, remember that I like gluten-free options. When staffers see me, they always update me on the new gluten-free options of the day, hoping (or maybe knowing) that I will be sure to take a piece of gluten-free chocolate cake to go.

5. Add a thank you.

It's easy to take regular and loyal customers for granted, but always thank them for returning to support your business.

Staffers at my favorite Durham gluten-free bakery, Daisy Cakes, know how much I love its gluten-free raspberry bars and bread pudding and always say thank you and invite me to return.

There are always competitors out there for your business. But demonstrating that you care can give you a competitive advantage.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Your Business a Powerful Customer Magnet

Karen Mishra

Marketing Consultant

Karen Mishra teaches marketing at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She also runs a leadership and marketing consulting firm, Total Trust, in Durham, N.C.

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