Loyal customers are hard to find. This is so because more often than not, they are loyal to their interests: savings, quality, honour, ease of doing business and special treatment.
If you can meet and exceed these interests, you may win the customer.
It was JC Penney who said that every great business is built on friendship. Ultimately, to create a great business, it must start with customer service. It is important that you interact with your clients person-to-person then create lasting friendships. This is the first step to loyalty and probably the most important one.
To achieve friendship, encourage your staff to interact with the customer more and do more than is expected. Repeat customers should be identified and appreciated. Sometimes a simple greeting at the till can make all the difference.
But beyond friendship, there are other contributors to customer loyalty. First, meet the basic need. If a client wants drinking water, get her clean, healthy, drinking water.
Secondly, aim at excellence and making the customer to feel special. Here, play up your strength as a store and play down your weaknesses by offering more. Big stores drive the shopping to the buyer’s car.
Finally, identify and appreciate repeat buyers.
The most common method in this category is a loyalty card. This is popular in Kenyan supermarkets. Every time a shopper buys from the store, they accumulate redeemable reward points.
Also familiar is the loyalty programmes by mobile phone companies where callers accumulate points which can be converted into data or call minutes.
Further, the business can start a club for the loyal customers. The member gets access to credit and educational or recreational facilities and discounts. This is common among banks and airlines.
Other traditional methods, including offering marketing merchandise like calendars, diaries, umbrellas... to the loyal customer also work, but slowly dying off as impact is hard to measure.
It is important to meet the client often, get their feedback and share with them plans or new products. Where time allows, meet each client for a talk.
Otherwise, it might help to have periodic client gatherings fashioned into parties or luncheons to hear their voices and they hear yours. This will create a sense of belonging. Customer satisfaction is worthless, customer loyalty is priceless, said Jeffrey Gitomer.
Mr Odhiambo is the managing consultant of Elim Consulting.