Every business wants loyal customers – few understand how to earn them.
Most businesses think loyalty comes from issuing a “frequent flyer” card and giving something away for free. That’s not loyalty. That’s buying repeat business from customers who are loyal to the prize, or to the price. Eliminate the freebies, and you eliminate the customer.
You can’t buy loyalty. You have to earn it.
Earning loyalty is a daily undertaking. It’s not earned with one action; rather, it’s earned with repeated, consistent actions that demonstrate your commitment to serving your customers in extraordinary and memorable ways. And, unless you’re a sole proprietor with zero employees or colleagues, earning customer loyalty is the job and the mission of every single person in your company. It takes a coordinated effort. A universal philosophy. It takes your customer’s perception that you care at least as much about their success as you do about yours. Loyalty is a feeling. It’s an emotional commitment to doing business together.
Emotion is best created through the personal relationships and rapport that you establish with your customers. You have to give your customers a reason to care about you. And, the best way to get them to care about you is to show them that you care about them first. It’s about serving your customers more than it is about selling your customers. It’s about helping. It’s about the long-term relationship more than the short-term quota you’re chasing. It’s about wanting and fighting for a positive outcome for your customer more than you wanting the commission from the sale.
People can be loyal to a brand. They can be loyal to a company. But brand or company loyalty is often temporary. One negative experience, and your customer may jump ship. The strongest kind of loyalty, the least vulnerable kind loyalty, the most valuable kind of loyalty is the loyalty that is earned by your people to your people. A customer who is loyal to a person will do business with you for life, send referrals your way, and give you the opportunity to fix a problem before they leave you.
Every person in your company is tasked with earning customer loyalty. The receptionist, the sales guy, the accountant. Even the janitor. It’s tough to get customers to drink the Kool-Aid, though, if your employees aren’t drinking it. Your employees, your colleagues, your team will only be able to earn the loyalty of your customers if your employees are loyal themselves. And the only way your employees will be loyal to you is if you earn their loyalty.
Yep, you have to earn your employees’ loyalty before you can even think about earning your customers’ loyalty. If you want loyal customers, you have to have loyal employees first. How do you earn employee loyalty? By answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”
If you ask your employees what they get out of working for you and their response is, “A paycheck,” that’s not loyalty. Yes, money is a big part of why people work, but it can’t be the only reason they work for you.
Loyal employees are the prerequisite for loyal customers.
Loyal employees show up early, stay late, and act in the best interest of the company.
Loyal employees don’t complain about problems, they solve them.
Loyal employees don’t blame the customer, they help them.
Loyal employees are the secret ingredient in the formula for success.
Earn your employees’ loyalty, and you’re on your way to earning customer loyalty. Don’t “get around to it when you’re not busy.” Start with earning employee loyalty, and let your employees work their magic with your customers. Earn it early and earn it often.
1. Ask your employees questions about their work, about their lives, about their challenges, about what excites them, and then listen to their answers with genuine interest.
2. Get your employees to believe that you care about them by, well, actually caring about them – and by showing them as well as telling them.
3. Give your employees your time. Daily.
4. Check in with every employee every week.
5. Show up early, stay late. If you can’t do it every day, do it every week. A little goes a long way.
6. Tell your employees that you value their work and their insight.
7. Take your employees to lunch or to breakfast. Start by taking one a week.
8. Have a party where you serve the food or man the grill.
9. Lead by example. Practice what you preach. Do the work.
10. Celebrate wins.
11. Reward your employees in public.
12. Correct them in the privacy of your office.
13. Catch them doing something right daily.
14. Get and maintain a great attitude. Set a positive tone from the moment you walk in the door.
15. Back your employees. Start by defending their decisions rather than dismissing them.
16. Be involved. Be engaged.
17. Get your hands dirty.
18. Talk about life goals as well as professional goals.
19. Help your employees achieve their goals.
20. Pay for (related) education.
21. Encourage. Root for your employees. Reward the effort and the outcome.
22. Communicate. Don’t assume that people know what’s going on. Be sure of it.
23. Involve people in decision-making. Include them in the research and in the evaluation. Let them be a part of the process.
24. Provide constant feedback. Don’t wait for the annual review. Be a coach.
25. Be willing to admit your failures. Endear yourself to your employees by apologizing when you screw up, and by fixing your mistakes quickly and appropriately.
26. Create a mission statement with your people, rather than for your people to follow. Make it something they can believe in, get behind, and live.
27. Be accountable. Be known as the person who follows up, who finishes on time, and who delivers.
28. Do what you say you will do.
This list is incomplete. You can help finish it.
Are you a business owner or manager? What have you done to earn the loyalty of your employees?
Are you an employee? What can your boss do to earn your loyalty? What can your company do?