July 23, 2019 07:40 PM
By Meg C. Hall
Active listening shows customers you care about their thoughts and feelings. (Photo: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock)
Developing a loyal customer base isn’t as easy as offering a rewards program or special deals. Winning the hearts of your patrons takes strategy, discipline and — most importantly — heart.
According to loyalty experts Sandy Rogers, Leena Rinne and Shawn Moon of FranklinCovey, a leadership development firm, the key to true customer devotion comes from within: “Just as true loyalty comes from feelings deep inside you, the power to inspire loyalty comes from deep inside as well. It’s fundamentally a question of the kind of person you choose to be.”
Through the research outlined in their new book “Leading Loyalty: Cracking the Code to Customer Devotion,” the trio determined there are “Three Core Loyalty Principles” that are necessary to inspire devotion among your customer base: empathy, responsibility and generosity.
Here’s how living out these principles in your business can awaken loyalty more effectively than reward points or promotions.
Earning loyalty starts by creating genuine connections with your customers.
“We earn loyalty when we connect with people in a warm, human, positive way,” said Rogers et al. “Showing empathy for someone else starts by making a connection with him or her. A genuine connection promotes a feeling of belonging, of acceptance.”
The best way to show empathy for your customers is by prioritizing their needs above all other important tasks on your list. And this not only goes for customer-facing staff but for everyone in your organization.
“Most employees really want to be helpful but are just too busy with conflicting priorities that they struggle to give empathy the time it deserves,” the authors wrote. “If we want loyal customers, empathy cannot be one priority among many.”
Active listening — and really seeking to understand the other person — is another great way to show customers you care about their thoughts and feelings.
“Listening to learn comes from a heartfelt desire to truly understand other people. The more we understand, the more we can help them; the more we help them, the more loyal they become,” they said.
After you’ve taken the time to empathize with and listen to your customer, the next step toward building loyalty is taking ownership of meeting their needs.
“To serve a customer or coworker responsibly, we need to ask thoughtful questions so we know what job they need us to do for them,” the authors said.
For instance, if a customer walks into your hardware store asking for a wrench, the responsible thing to do would be to find out what job they are wanting the wrench to do. That way you can help them choose the right tool — which may not be a wrench at all.
“We assume responsibility for the other person’s goal or problem by discovering the real job to be done,” Rogers et al. wrote. “We may be doing a great job at taking responsibility for the client in the moment, but if we rush to deliver the client’s request, it’s not entirely clear our solution is aligned to what the person truly needs. Discovering the real job to be done is the functional application that allows us, as responsible people, to make sure people achieve the solution or outcome they are really seeking.”
According to the FranklinCovey team, generosity is the final key to earning your customers’ love and devotion.
“Embracing the principle of generosity means constantly thinking about new ways to make life easier and better for others by contributing thoughts, feelings, knowledge and innovative ideas,” they wrote. “Generous people and organizations show kindness first, then they do whatever possible to give more than is expected. “
While generosity can sometimes cost money, it doesn’t just mean you have to give away a ton of freebies. More often than not, generosity is simply finding ways to relieve stress and show kindness to customers.
“Most of us don’t wake up each morning wondering how we can be more generous. But if we want loyal customers, that’s what we should do,” the authors said. “A customer in trouble will never forget you if you go out of your way to be generous.”
By finding ways to surprise and delight your customers, you give them a remarkable experience that they will naturally want to share with others, so the costs of generosity are almost always worth it, they said.
Generous acts “may not save pennies in the short term, but they earn big dollars in the long term,” they said. “If we intentionally focus on living by these loyalty principles, we will earn loyalty as a matter of course.”