Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive AdvantageIt’s not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand. You don’t see too many executives saying they don’t want more of them. But what’s interesting to me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs.

New customer sales & marketing? – At most companies that means a meaningful lead generation budget, a full sales team, lots of support and attention.

Existing customers? – A newsletter, maybe some training, and an 800-number if they have questions.

This is a broad generalization, but you get the point (and you’ve seen it, both at companies you work with and for, as well as directly as a customer of others).

How are your current customers perhaps your most valuable competitive edge?

  • Treat them right – deliver a fantastic product or service – and you can count on their business for life
  • Be remarkable, and they’ll tell their friends and colleagues about you as well
  • Earn their trust, and they’ll tell you exactly what they’re seeing in the market – your competitors, new innovations, etc.
  • Engage them regularly, and they’ll tell you when you’re wrong, when you screw up, and give you time to fix it
  • Actively listen, react to their feedback, innovate when they ask, and they won’t go anywhere
  • Create an army of ambassadors, and they’re an extension of your sales force in situations you have zero access to today
  • Make them your eyes and ears, and they’ll give you the earliest heads-up possible to any competitive threat on the horizon (with enough time to react, adjust, and cut competitors off at the knees before they can get momentum)
  • Ask them to brainstorm with you, and they’ll give you far better, more creative ideas than you’d ever come up with yourself
  • Surprise them with your responsiveness, speed and approachability, and they’ll treat you like a loyal friend

You can do this. You can do all of this, and most of it doesn’t cost any more than a change in how you manage your customers. How you talk to them. How often, with a different message, a different tone, and both more frequency and thoughtfulness.

Your customers desperately want this from you. They’ve made a commitment to you (in a big or small way), and all they ask is that you return that commitment to them.

There’s no question in my mind that every business has significant and measurable revenue potential with greater focus here.

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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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2 Responses to Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

  1. Kurt says:

    Many, many companies pay lip service to the idea that their customers are king, yet few actually do the hard work to ensure that it is true.

    It is one of the lies that companies tell themselves. Yet when you listen to the language that they use when discussing their customers and those customer's needs, it is clear that the companies don't really believe it.

    Our family (like many others) owns a couple of Hondas; they are our first but certainly won't be our last. Though our Hondas are far from sexy or beautiful and do nothing to improve our social status or function as a rabbit for the other Joneses in our neighborhood, they have two characteristics that make them great. One is that they are bedrock reliable. The other, and more important feature is, however, that they come attached to a great dealer.

    This was something that, based on years of experiences with other dealers, I never expected. However, the service department of our Honda dealer has proven over and over again to be our best friend. When a teen driver hit our CRV the front struts were locked the fully extended position. The insurance company didn't want to believe this (because it was unusual). Our dealer, however, went to extraordinary lengths to help us get the the insurance company to pay for new struts, even though it cost the dealership money (the difference between what we would have paid and the insurance reimbursement was substantial).

    There have been several other situations in which that dealer has helped us save money and continue to love our cars.

    That loyalty ensures that we will buy another Honda or Acura (which is just a Honda in drag) when the time comes.

    The local body shop (which came highly recommended and has a great reputation) is another matter. Even though they knew the struts were locked and made driving the car dangerous; they did not alert us to the problem so we could start working on the insurance company right away. Instead they broke faith with us and allowed my wife to drive the car home in a dangerous state! And when I reached out to the owner to try to deal with the problem, he ignored me. Needless to say we won't be using them again.

    Many of my consulting customers have field service organizations. In most of those companies, the field service group is treated as an afterthought rather the the company's front line. What a shame and waste of feedback and a great opportunity to build loyalty.

    As Matt points out, building loyalty takes work and an open mindset on the part of your business, but the rewards are way out of proportion to the work.

  2. Scott Zimmerman says:

    Great post, Matt. I agree and would like to add that exemplary customer engagement comes down to actually knowing what kind of information your customers want to receive, as well as when and how they want to receive it. Today’s customers expect—and in many cases demand—that information be tailored to their ever-changing needs and interests.

    It’s also important to create an experience. In my line of work, I spend a lot of time helping companies of all types engage and activate existing customers, and one surprising segment of small to mid-sized businesses – orthodontists – has really opened my eyes to the opportunity to truly communicate and engage with customers in a way that encourages behavior change. With GenZ making up the bulk of their customer base, orthodontists have had to adapt, and I believe most businesses can leverage some of their learnings to engage and activate customers.

    For example, all businesses desire to build long-term relationships with their customers. With this in mind, many companies are employing the use of notifications technology such as e-mail and text messaging to provide ongoing customer care. For example, one progressive orthodontist I work with communicates with GenZ customers between visits to ensure the patient is managing his treatment at home. If part of a patient’s treatment is to wear headgear at night, the orthodontist schedules a series of text messages to be delivered a few nights a week reminding his patient to wear his headgear:

    • Monday’s message: dnt 4gt 2 wear yr headgear (Translation: Don’t forget to wear your headgear)
    • Thursday’s message: brush yr ivories n zzz wel (Translation: Brush your teeth and sleep well)
    • Saturday’s message: 1ly 99 nyts lft 2 wear headgear (Translation: Only 99 nights left to wear headgear)
    • Monday’s message: headgear = gr8 ivories n lots of d8s (Translation: Headgear equals great teeth and lots of dates)

    This same orthodontist has kids and knows Generation Z customers are all about video. So, he e-mails his GenZ customers YouTube videos with tips from their peers. To give you a feel for what I’m talking about, view this YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSYpobV9UE8)that shares tips and tricks for wearing elastics. How cool is that?

    By leveraging what I call “engagement communications (EC),” notifications technology, and some imagination, companies can deliver a more personalized customer experience, increase customer loyalty and reduce churn. So experiment, have fun and, most importantly, engage your customers – whatever the generation – with relevant, personalized communications that create a positive customer care experience.

    Scott Zimmerman, President at http://www.televox.com

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