20 January 2020 * 6 min read
Written by David Ekefre
In this series of posts, we’ll learn what Customer loyalty and Customer retention is; and also some practical ways to achieve them. These two terms are used widely interchangeably but I believe they are two different terms and actions. Loyalty speaks more of a long-term — making your customer a lifetime customer-relationship between your business and her customer, whereas, retention speaks more of short-term — making your customers come back a second and third time — relationship. So you see, they speak of two different things, nonetheless, not far apart from each other because customer loyalty cannot be achieved without first retaining the customer, in other words, customer retention is the first step towards achieving customer loyalty. On the other hand, customer retention can be achieved without actually making the customer a lifetime customer
So, Customer Loyalty, what is it?
Customer loyalty, simply put, is turning your customers into lifetime customers. Customer loyalty is having a legacy of customers. This special set of customers persist with you through thick and thin, through the rainy day and through your business change processes. The best time to know your loyal customers is during a business change! A change of address, staff, business process, even the slightest price change — especially the slightest price change — become a test to your true customers.
Let me tell you a story about one faithful customer I used to know. This faithful customer became a faithful customer of a Nigerian food product store. This faithful customer obviously was in a foreign country, hence the need of a Nigerian food product store and I believe every Nigerian that has lived outside Nigeria knows what Nigerian food product store means to their life wherever they are! This faithful customer had found love in a strange place. This faithful customer had just received the answer to this faithful customer’s prayers. This faithful customer had become a loyal customer for as long as this faithful customer was to live in that country, but something happened to this faithful customer! Something happened to the business this faithful customer had become loyal to! Something drastic, something very unfortunate had happened to this business and this tested the faithfulness of this faithful customer! This business changed its location! They had now moved 2 streets away from their previous location, and I remember the words that were uttered out of this faithful customer’s mouth. He said to his friend when discussing this drastic change that had happened, while, by-the-way, his friend was convincing him that the new location of this Nigerian food product store was only 2 streets away, that it really wasn’t that big of a deal to keep going there. The faithful customer replied, “I’m not that loyal bro”. This faithful customer is me! I said those words “I’m not that loyal bro” and it honestly did not take me long to start searching for a new Nigerian food product store. How faithful I was indeed!
These words “I’m not that loyal bro”, might not be said with the exact same words but said all the time by customers. Customers, who, themselves think are loyal to a brand or a business but when the slightest change happens to that brand or business, these customers don’t know how to be loyal bro! but like I said, there are those customers who know how to stick with you; and that is customer loyalty. Turning the average customer into the stick-with-me customer, and I used the word ‘turning’ on purpose because it’s a process; “Customer loyalty is not a phase, it’s a journey”.
Ways to Achieve Customer Loyalty
This sub-heading ‘Ways to achieve Customer Loyalty’ can be substituted for ‘Ways to keep your marriage’ and it would still do justice to the intended purpose of the sub-heading because getting and keeping a lifetime customer needs almost the same, if not the same, amount of effort you need in keeping your marriage partner. It takes hard-work and love. Yes, it takes love too. Your loyal customers become your business friends, they become your business soul mates and you cannot have someone you call a friend if you do not love that person or a soul mate if you do not put some effort into that person’s personal life. Ok, don’t get carried away David, this is not a relationship post! But why can’t it be? This brings me to No 1 way to achieve customer loyalty and by No 1, I mean the most important and first of ALL ways to achieve customer loyalty.
Business — Customer Relationship
You should be in a relationship with your customer! I don’t mean a watch-a-movie-together-every-weekend relationship and I certainly don’t mean a promo/sales-spam-email-every-now-and-then relationship too.
So, a business-customer relationship, how can it be achieved?
- Find out your boundaries: Every relationship has its boundaries; this does not exclude your business-customer relationship. Take yourself as an example and find out what boundaries you would set if you were in a business-customer relationship. What would be appropriate for a business to send to you or invite you for? You wouldn’t want your grocery store poking into your medical records, would you? And you certainly wouldn’t want your video game store poking into your grocery shopping list. It’s called Contextual Integrity. This simply means: let information needed by your doctor remain with your doctor and let information needed by your grocery store remain with your grocery store without any mixing up or what-not. If you’re interested in contextual integrity, you could search for this article on the web and read, it’s a very good read “Nissenbaum, Helen. “Privacy as contextual integrity.” L. Rev. 79 (2004): 119. Birthday wishes, for example, are one of the easiest and most effective business — customer relationship moves (yes I used the word ‘moves’ because you gotta make moves) you can make as a business; a move that cuts across all boundaries. Which takes us to our next business — customer relationship point.
- Make moves: After finding out your business boundaries. Like I said, these business boundaries are discovered by using yourself as an example, taking in context your kind of business also. The keyword here is ‘yourself’ because whatever you wouldn’t like a business to do to you, most people won’t like your business to do to them neither. Again, after finding out your boundaries, make your moves! Send the birthday wishes, one of your customers just got engaged or married, send a best wishes card via email or mail, whichever, make that move! A customer just lost a relative or someone close to them and you find out, say something! Your customer is your friend! Become their friends on every social media platform possible. Know what’s going on in their lives and make your moves; but if something happens in their life and it is in the no-go area of your boundary lines, do not respond! I repeat, DO NOT RESPOND! Customer loyalty takes a lifetime to achieve but takes a second to destroy.
There are several other ways you can achieve customer loyalty and as I said earlier, customer retention is the first step to customer loyalty, so if you can, first of all, achieve customer retention, you are on the journey to achieving customer loyalty. This means that every customer retention tactic that’ll be discussed in our next post is ultimately a way of achieving customer loyalty.
David Ekefre is a Business Management consultant for Ya’ats Advisory Services Ltd, a firm that specializes in Customer Relationships; customer service, retention, loyalty and the overall satisfaction of your customers. He loves solving problems regardless of which aspect of life.