Loyal customers – who wants them?

by David Tovey

Client loyalty has to be earned

I recently overheard a client saying that customers were more fickle than ever and showed no loyalty. I’ve heard it said many times when the business environment gets tough.

Today, as ever we need to understand that client loyalty has to be earned; it can’t be expected simply because we supply a product or service. Even if we have supplied our service or product with efficiency and with total satisfaction we can’t ‘expect’ loyalty. Client loyalty requires delivery of expectations – and then some.

When a supplier under-delivers on a customer expectations, the result is a dissatisfied customer. Delivering what the client expects results in a satisfied customer – but we mustn’t think a satisfied customer will be a loyal customer.

A satisfied customer isn’t necessarily loyal

I recently asked a group what words they would use if they were satisfied with the service of a restaurant or hotel they visited.  Responses included ‘OK’,  ‘Not bad’ ,  ‘What you’d expect’,  ‘ No better or worse than others’.  Wow, what an accolade – to be described as no better or worse than your competitors. Not a great strap line or header on the company web site:

‘We aim to be no better or worse than our competitors’!

In reality the best we can expect from satisfied customers is loyalty until something better comes along, like a competitor who offers a little bit more of something the customer values.

Client expectations – a matter of trust

Before we can consider our clients’ loyalty, we have to be sure we know exactly what our client expects. Just because they happen to be in the same business as other customers we work with doesn’t mean that we can assume they have the same expectations. It’s really dangerous to assume anything about a relationship, business or personal.

Identifying the expectations of a potential long term customer takes time and skill. Even more than that it takes trust. If a business relationship is to thrive and be profitable then trust is vital. No customer will share their full expectations, their full motivations until you have built a relationship based on trust.

Getting under the ‘iceberg’

Understanding a client’s requirements means getting under their ‘iceberg’; getting under the surface to probe and find out more than what everyone can see above the surface (more than the superficial stuff that all our competitors also find out).

When we have the full picture of our client’s expectations and motivations only then can we begin to manage our own business to deliver the experience that the customer wants. How we manage that experience will affect customer loyalty.

From satisfaction to loyalty

Knowing that a satisfied customer isn’t good enough we can put effort into delivering more than the client expects and consistently delivering above and beyond expectations. It takes time and effort, rarely much money but makes a huge difference to keeping customers loyal.

Are you building trust early enough so that your clients stay loyal?

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David Tovey

David Tovey is a professional speaker, coach and author of 'Principled Selling' published by Kogan Page.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Denise Robinson January 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm

What an excellent article, thankyou.
We spent yesterday morning with a business coach, working with us to establish where we are, where we would like to be in the future and the above was exactly what we were working on.

Many thanks
Denise

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avatar David Tovey January 23, 2012 at 8:14 am

Thank you Denise.

Focusing on customers is always a great place to start. Best of luck with your plans.

Regards

David

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