Frans_Snyders_-_Fruit_Stall_-_WGA21520A recent article by American business magazine Forbes highlighted how “Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer”. Consequently, it is pivotal that small businesses can establish and retain a loyal customer base if they are to compete with large corporations. Listed below are some simple yet highly effective measures which you can implement within your current business model in order to build up a loyal customer base.

1- Provide your customers with plenty of follow-up information

48% of respondents in a Zendesk customer service survey stated that the most critical time for a company to gain their loyalty was when they made their first purchase. Therefore, your business needs to establish future channels of communication with your clients as soon as they begin to utilise your services. If your company provides individual messages to your clients, such as follow-up phone calls or  one-to-one business meetings, then you equip your customers with a channel of communication through which they can continue to seek your services. A profitable example of this technique is ProFlowers; a florist company who send promotional emails to their pre-existing customers on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day and anniversaries. By doing so, they have managed to create relevant emails for each of their loyal customers in order to increase repeat sales.

2- Reward your customers’ loyalty with discounts and reward schemes

54% of the respondents surveyed in the Zendesk customer service survey cited that they would consider increasing the amount of business they do with a company in return for loyalty rewards. Subsequently, it is important that your small business offers discounts and reward schemes for all of your customers. By doing so, you can engage with your clients and encourage them to purchase from your business as opposed to taking their custom elsewhere. Moreover, if you create schemes wherein your customers will continue to receive more lucrative rewards if they purchase more products from you, then you can begin to consolidate a loyal, long term customer base. For instance, multinational coffee corporation Starbucks have created a My Starbucks Rewards scheme wherein customers receive a free drink after they have collected 15 stars. This reward scheme encourages customers to purchase their coffee primarily from Starbucks on a regular basis as they will receive a tangible reward for their custom.

3- Communicate individually with your customers

An infographic posted on 3PL News revealed how 70% of customers have stopped buying from a business as a direct result of a poor customer service. Subsequently, if your business can provide an exceptional level of customer service then your clients will establish trust with your brand. One of the main ways in which you can consolidate this trust is by interacting individually with your customers in order to make them feel valued. These customers will respect the amiable nature of your business rather than dismissing you as a faceless corporation. A successful example of this technique is automotive manufacturer Lexus who have created a new NX configuration system which permits customers to customise their ideal vehicle online. As reported by automotive company Jardine Motors; “The online configurator allows motorists to choose between four vehicle grades, ten exterior colours, and three wheel configurations”. This technique of equipping customers with the ability to choose the product which suits them enables businesses to  improve their brand reputation. Consequently, the ability to offer individual services to each and very one of your valued customers will encourage them to establish loyalty with your brand.

4- Provide exceptional customer service systems

The Zendesk customer service survey also highlighted that 34% of respondents stated that businesses could build loyalty with them by providing exceptional 24/7 customer service systems. As a result, it is imperative that your business offers multiple channels of communication wherein you can interact with your customers and answer any questions which they may have. From sending regular email newsletters and phone calls to establishing contact via social networking sites, it is important that your customers feel that they can remain in contact with your business at all times. Simple measures, such as informing customers when their products have been shipped, enables your clients to acknowledge your company’s efficiency and commitment to providing exceptional customer service. For example, supermarket chain Sainsbury’s renamed their tiger bread after a three year old girl wrote to the company saying that the bread looked more like a giraffe. The letter, which was posted on the blog of the mother of the girl, soon went viral and served as a lucrative marketing success for the supermarket chain. By responding to your customers in a personal manner such as this, your clients will establish loyalty with your business and recommend your services to others.

5- Establish a human touch to your business

In today’s technologically advanced society many businesses depend upon email and social media sites in order to interact with their clients. However, the lack of human interaction that is associated with these services often leaves customers feeling dissatisfied. For example, the aforementioned 3PL News infographic illustrated that the “Top Two Customer Turn Offs” are when businesses fail to respond to clients’ emails or when customers are kept on hold over the phone. Therefore, your business should endeavour to arrange personal one-to-one meetings with your clients as well as maintaining contact online. For example, even though media streaming website Netflix operate predominantly online, they have begun to advertise their free customer helpline in order provide a personal and attentive service to all of their clients. By combining offline and online channels of communication in this manner, your customers will feel valued and informed of your services at all times.

Ultimately, by listening to your clients, responding to their opinions and  providing a consistent level of exceptional customer service, you can successfully build up a loyal customer base that will recommend your company and its products to others.